The U.S. Defense Department is making a sweeping change it its policy on head injuries, with plans to mandate evaluations of all soldiers who have sustained possible concussions, military officials said last week. http://www.defense.gov/news/newsarticle.aspx?id=58264
Currently, a soldier in combat or near an explosion or blast must decide themselves whether to seek an evaluation for a concussion or head injury.
But under the policy change likely to be implemented, any soldier exposed to a blast or explosion would be required to get an evaluation. Such service members would also have to rest and couldn’t return to their units’ mission cycle for at least 24 hours, an official at the Defense Centers of Excellence for Psychological Health and Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI).
Essentially, the military is saying that once a soldier has been involved in a situation that could cause brain injury, that soldier must get a check-up, whether they are showing symptoms of brain trauma or a concussion.
The new policy is meant to overcome the military “culture of the mission” that makes troops reluctant to leave their comrades to seek treatment, even when they are showing symptoms of brain trauma.
The so-called military acute concussion evaluation can be conducted out in the field, even while “bullets are flying,” as one defense department TBI official said.
Medics can complete the evaluation in 10 to 15 minutes, and soldiers don’t have to go to a field hospital. According to research, soldiers get better faster if they are near their unit.
During the evaluation, soldiers are asked questions so medics can gauge the seriousness of their head injury or concussion. Then the soldier must rest for 24 hours, and then have a follow-up evaluation. If any symptoms remain, additional tests will be done. If the soldier appears fine, he or she will return to the field.
In essence, the military is following the Sport and Concussion model. Now if we could get civilian hospitals to do the same, reevaluate everyone suspected of a concussion at 24 hours, that would be real progress.
Attorney Gordon Johnson
Past Chair Traumatic Brain Injury Litigation Group, American Association of Justice
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