According to the Betty Clooney Center, which serves patients with traumatic brain injuries, since 2003, 30 percent of soldiers taken to Walter Reed Medical Center have what is considered a traumatic brain injury. These injuries are often caused by explosions.
The U.S. Military has long been studying the effect of explosions on the brain, but it is now setting out to collect data of how the body responds to a blast in real-time. According to Military News, the army is going to outfit some soldiers in Afghanistan with blast sensor packs that will pick up on traumatic injuries and collect other data.
Military News reports the Soldier Body Units --sensors part of the Integrated Blast Effects Sensor Suite -- will arrive in Afghanistan next month. The Rapid Equipping Force (REF) with Georgia Tech Research Institute hope to collect enough data on concussions and other traumatic injuries using the sensors through 2014.
“We’re trying to get the data while we still can. I don’t want this to sound wrong, but the data we collect from these explosions is very important for us to measure how these blasts affect a soldier’s head and body,” Amy O’Brien with REF said according to Military News.
Military News has more on the data-collecting technology:
Army officials think they have improved on those blast gauges with the I-BESS, the next generation of blast sensors. What sets the I-BESS apart is the total body approach to recording concussions and TBIs [traumatic brain injuries].
Soldiers have tested the Soldier Body Units and sent feedback to REF and Georgia Tech engineers. Initially, soldiers balked at the idea of adding another piece of kit they had to wear on patrols.
Jesse Hester, the liaison officer between the REF and Georgia Tech’s Research Institute, said the Army could soon cut down Soldier Body Unit’s weight to half a pound. Most of the mass is found in the two batteries and the thick plastic case protecting the main hub collecting the data from the four sensors. REF officials used 3-volt batteries because soldiers already carried them. The thick plastic was used to allow the computer hubs to sustain blasts.
According to Military News, Soldier Body Units have continuously running sensors -- two on the chest and two on the back.
Army Sgt. 1st Class Joshua Marion points out that soldiers also will not be able to "hide" traumatic injuries and continue fighting as the sensors will pick up on this information. He said with this technology more traumatic injuries that could be sustained from remaining in combat could be prevented.
In addition, as part of the overarching project, sensors will also be installed on vehicles to collect data on blast impacts affecting soldiers riding within them.
Data collected will be analyzed by medical professionals.