One study found that troops are exposed to an average of one explosion a month. Each shock wave a soldier experiences increases the chances that the next will cause brain damage.
More and more troops are coming home from Iraq with brain damage, the result of repeated exposure to explosions, and doctors are having a difficult time keeping up. For many, the damage causes problems experts have never seen before and aren’t sure how to treat.
Thousands of troops have been diagnosed with traumatic brain injury, or TBI. These blast-caused head injuries are so different from the ones doctors are used to seeing from falls and car crashes that treating them is as much faith as it is science.
“I’ve been in the field for 20-plus years dealing with TBI. I have a very experienced staff. And they’re saying to me, ‘We’re seeing things we’ve never seen before,’ ” said Sandy Schneider, director of Vanderbilt University’s brain injury rehabilitation program.