At one point or another, we’ve all hurt ourselves, but figured the injury wasn’t bad enough or didn’t hurt enough to seek medical attention. Unfortunately, some military veterans don’t get the treatment they need—not by choice, but because they don’t know they have a problem.
Virginia is the proud home of nearly 825,000 military veterans, the seventh-highest population in the United States. According to Veteran Affairs, 60 percent of these veterans were exposed to combat situations that may have included close proximities to explosions and percussive forces. These forces have traumatic effects on the human brain, causing concussions, swelling, and hemorrhages. Unfortunately, according to a recent study, these effects may also not show obvious symptoms at first, masking the injury and preventing necessary treatment.
The Journal of Head Trauma and Rehabilitation Study
The study focused on white matter damage to the brain. White matter helps link different areas of the brain together and an injury to it can cause cognitive problems.
Researchers performed specific MRI tests called Diffusion Tensor Imaging (DTI) to evaluate the differences in white matter in 45 volunteer US veterans with varying explosion exposures.
- Veterans with blast exposure history and documented traumatic brain injury (TBI) had significant damage affecting their white matter.
- Veterans with blast exposure who weren’t diagnosed with TBI and did not have symptoms of TBI also had significant white matter damage.
- Veterans who weren’t exposed to any type of explosion showed very little or no damage to their white matter.
- The amount of damage also correlated with diminished reaction time and mental acuity amongst the volunteers.
The study hopes to raise awareness for combat veterans and show that although symptoms may not present themselves, an explosion can still cause irreparable brain damage.
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