Military Helmets: Traumatic Brain Injury

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Dr. Charles Hoge, the U.S. Army’s senior mental health researcher at Walter Reed Hospital from 2002 to 2009 and now advisor to the Army Surgeon General, wrote an interesting piece for the Huffington Post in which he effectively dismissed the idea that there might be lingering effects from mild traumatic brain injury (“TBI”).    This article appears to have written to place the US Army “spin” on earlier report from the New York Times that a US Army survey of 18,000 soldiers suggested that 40% of returning soldiers had “experienced at least mild TBI.”   Could it be that our antiquated military helmets should have provided better protection to prevent these cases of TBI?

While Dr. Hoge recommends that we should honor these brave but impaired heroes, he goes on to argue that there is no easy clinical or pychological explanation to determine the degree of TBI.  In fact, he goes on to suggest that we re-label these conditions to produce an “AC” or Army-Correct version.  According to Dr. Hoge, “medical and mental health professionals can better educate their warriors about combat physiology, and not make everything so clinical. Instead of ‘trauma,’ ‘injury,’ ‘symptom’ or ‘disorder,’ they can try using words like ‘experience,’ ‘event,’ ‘reaction’ or ‘physiological responses.’ That doesn’t minimize the importance of medical terminology, especially in guiding effective treatment, but it also acknowledges the warriors’ need for validation of their own experiences.” 

This callous “spin” suggests that if we call the symptoms or evidence of TBI something else such as Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (“PTSD”) then we have a psychologically treatable “reaction” to high levels of stress rather than a physical ailment.  This is sophistry at its best.

Many have long argued that our troops need state-or-the-art liners and self-adjusting padding inside military helmets to cushion or dissipate the energy of a hit that lessen the sudden movement of the head that causes concussions.   Why can’t our brave soldiers be afforded the same level of protection that we give to NFL and college football players?  The technology is available if only the US Army would care to look rather than staunchly defend the safety of current military helmets.

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  1. Joseph DiMeco  October 30, 2010

    Dear Sir,

    What neck injuries can occur if repetitive pounding to the helmet while riding in tanks I.E. M577 mobile medical aid station. The example of these would be repetitive bouncing head into the roof of the tank, repetitive rattling against the side wall during movement of the tank. repetitive jerking around inside the tank while holding on to the wrist strap. I have seen mild concussions and neck and shoulder pain with numbness with tingling in the extremity. Have you seen these problems and how severe were they? How much of this contributed to traumatic brain injuries and repetitive mild concussions?

    Thank You.

    Joseph A. DiMeco, Jr. SSGT RET

    100% Disabled Veteran

    • Richard May  October 30, 2010

      Thank you for your inquiry SSGT DiMeco. We are not qualified medical practitioners and, as such, it is difficult to render any diagnosis. Nevertheless, we will seek to determine if there is any corroborating evidence to suggest that the conditions you described may have contributed to TBI.

  2. Joseph A DiMeco Jr  December 5, 2011

    It is obvious to me that the Army’s DR Hope has not read

    any of the research that the Navy has done at the San Diego, CA this research was done by Cynthia Boyd, Ph, D. Neuropsychologist at the Naval Medical Research Center please read this new research for the causes of TBI other than the obvious

    What I ask is stop lumping all the symptoms into PTSD when you know that it is a level one concussion thanks

    Joseph A DiMeco Jr