Tuesday, May 22, 2012

DARPA Blast Gauge Warns Potential Brain Injury

External damage is a simple indicator of trauma which allows medics to provide immediate proper treatment. However, internal exposure to bomb blasts may not be easily recognized. A lot of headlines are in the media concerning brain injury among returning veterans along with comparisons to those suffered by football players. Whether by coincidence or in response DARPA has released details of its first phase in a pilot program involving over six thousand war fighters who are fielding their Blast Gauge in combat zones. The photo below shows the small black device on the back of the soldiers helmet, which at first glance doesn't appear too invasive.

Photo by DARPA
Apparently the device is working by indicating exposure to a blast which could cause traumatic brain injury, despite a soldier not recognizing any problem present. It seems natural for someone to avoid treatment if they do not feel an injury has taken place from their own assessment. However, DARPA Blast Gauge will measure the exposure and potential for brain injury even if external symptoms or pain are not present.

While it is noted that they are still working on possible treatments to counter any long term effects, this device may be a start to know when a problem has presented itself. The potential for troops being sidelined after an incident of blast exposure certainly can cause for push back against such a device as would something implemented in Football helmets in the NFL. Comparing the too professions and risk involved is a bit simplistic at best, but the general mindset to stay in the game could be strong enough to ignore a problem despite the future ramifications.

The video below (not so great language involved) was just released yesterday, which gives a good example of what a shock wave can pack from afar. Imagine the potential for damage at a much closer distance. Maybe an observer would any harm given the distance, but the Blast Gauge can give a readout which shows exactly what was wrought on those nearby no matter how close. Sure it is one more thing to incorporate in the kit and possibly lose, but it may soon be mandatory as the House Armed Services Committee has encouraged its use for all. 

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