View Full Version : MRAPs: More blast protection, more concussions

10-07-2009, 10:23 PM
MRAPs: More blast protection, more concussions

By Gina Cavallaro - Staff writer
Posted : Wednesday Oct 7, 2009 17:52:58 EDT

Soldiers riding in Mine Resistant Ambush Protected vehicles are surviving more blasts than they did in Humvees, but the rate of concussions from those blasts may be on the rise and going undetected, according to Army Vice Chief of Staff Gen. Peter Chiarelli.

Army doctors, he said, are concerned about the number of concussive events soldiers are enduring, because the brain can heal from a concussion but when there are repeated blows to the head, it can lead to traumatic brain injury, Chiarelli said Wednesday at AUSA 2009.

“The MRAP has been a lifesaver on the battlefield; at the same time, soldiers might go through an explosion in an MRAP, have a concussive event and didn’t get it diagnosed,” Chiarelli said. “A chain of physical and chemical reactions occur in response to a startling or traumatic event, and exposure to additional concussive events while still recovering from the first can magnify the brain damage experience and inhibit normal recovery.”

Chiarelli said research shows that the response following a traumatic event can factor significantly into whether a soldier develops post traumatic stress disorder, although early treatment for both ailments, he said, can be successful if the soldier has a good deal of time to recover.

In February, Chiarelli was put in charge of getting to the root of and looking for solutions to an increase in the incidence of mental health issues among soldiers, including a sharp, steady rise in suicides since 2005.

“My passion right now is trying to explain to soldiers that TBI and PTSD are not unlike someone who breaks a leg or is bleeding. There is a physical reaction that is real,” he said.

As evidence of the rise in soldiers suffering with TBI and PTSD, Chiarelli noted that of the 5,200 most severely wounded soldiers getting help under the Army Wounded Warrior Program, 52 percent of those have one or both of the ailments.

That number is up from a year ago At that point, there were 3,800 soldiers enrolled in the program; of those, 38 percent were affected.