It finally occurred to me what resource to call about the helmet technology that I keep hearing rumors about, and that I know should be in place to help prevent at least some cases of TBI, (Traumatic Brain Injury) and PTSD, (Post Traumatic Brain Disorder) among our troops. There is so much emphasis on PTSD being primarily a mental illness, but as I look at the latest research, that isn't what I find. On the battlefield, and in theater in general, explosions are a constant given. Even at the American Embassy in Baghdad where Randy is now, there are always rocket attacks, which produce the air waves of pressure that can shake the human brain enough to produce small concussions, and when those concussions occur repeatedly, the injuries become cumulative, and the condition of Postconcussive Syndrome can develop. (see my previous blog, Things You May Not Know About PTSD.)
Psychological therapy is an important part of treating PTSD, but that cannot detract from the growing evidence that it can be the result of these many small explosions, and all the other size explosions encountered by our military personnel, which produce TBI, which in turn can contribute to PTSD.
There is more and more research every day on therapies that can help those suffering from these medical conditions as a result of their service to our country in the military. The military has begun in earnest its program to train leadership, all those serving, and their families in the recognition of the signs and symptoms of these two diseases. It is now of utmost importance that we begin to look at the prevention of these devastating injuries of war, and by the way, when we are passing out the purple hearts, how is the loss of a limb due to an IED encounter any different from the disruption of the normal function of the brain, which may be, and for many is, permanent? Just because there is no screaming, or no blood, does not mean the injury isn't real, and life altering. When a man or woman is serving their country, and they sustain any kind of injury, if it is the visible kind, or the invisible kind, if one kind of injury merits a purple heart, so does the other. Another aspect of TBI and PTSD is that the onset of symptoms of these injuries can sometimes be delayed.
We came to live in Austin County, Texas in 2007 because Randy took a job with BAE Systems. While Randy worked at BAE, he had the privilege and honor of being the Program Manager for the second generation MRAP vehicle, the Caiman. His last boss at BAE was Chris Chambers, and suddenly it occurred to me last week who to call about what technology has been developed in the area of prevention. Last Friday I called and left a message for Chris, and he was out of the office. This morning he called and was able to give me precisely the information that I was looking for.
The first step to preventing PTSD and TBI, is to determine at what point encounters with the explosions of war reach a threshold where normal brain function is affected in any way. It seems the technology has already been developed by BAE Systems in the form of a small sensor that mounts inside a helmet. It measures several aspects of the impact sustained by a Soldier due to explosions or other impacts sustained in combat which cause head trauma. I can see the application as being of significance in sports equipment as well.
Now I realize, I may be the last person on planet earth to be acquiring knowledge of this technology, because the Army has already purchased some of these sensors for helmets. However, I can't tell if enough have been bought, according to the figures listed at the web site, to cover every Soldier in theater being equipped with one. I'm sure that cost is a consideration in the amount of these units purchased by the Army, but they did just redesign their uniforms, so I would think that there is room for this type of spending in the budget. I am certain that anyone suffering from PTSD or TBI today would have given anything to have worn such a sensor, which could have alerted command when they reached the limits of a safe threshold. However, I am not certain that enough data has been collected to identify what constitutes a "safe threshold." At any rate, go to BAE's website and view the latest technical equipment advances to prevent our military from sustaining injuries that are costly to the individual, and to the nation.
Thanks to Chris Chambers out at the Sealy BAE Systems plant for directing me to this information. The sensor is called HEADS which stands for Headborne Energy Analysis and Diagnostic System. I hope you will share this information with those who need it most.