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Repeated concussions endanger Texas athletes, soldiers

Researchers have learned in the last few years that repeated incidents of head trauma can be debilitating and deadly. Athletes and soldiers are more prone to brain injuries than people who never receive a concussive blow or blast.

An estimated 270,000 U.S. soldiers were diagnosed with brain trauma since 2000. Health experts worry that as many as 130,000 more service members have gone undiagnosed. Some of the known and unknown victims likely passed through nearby Fort Hood, south of Dallas, before or between deployments to overseas danger zones.

Troops active in high-tension war areas are targets of improvised explosive devices, the enemies’ homemade bombs better known as IEDs. Death can be immediate. On average, a half of a dozen soldiers are killed daily by cheap bombs. Some soldiers survive but carry internal wounds that don’t heal and worsen with every hazardous mission.

On-duty troops are similar to amateur and professional athletes, who return to their jobs after a head injury, often with the official blessing of a medic or coach. Concussions in full-contact sports occur on the battlefield, when an IED’s 900-mph gas shock wave rocks a soldier’s brain.

Even when soldiers escape outward symptoms of injury, internal organs move, compress and shatter. A blast wave shakes every body part. Severe jarring can cause brain swelling and crushing within the limited confines of the skull. Connections between nerves can be severed, altering the ability to remember, feel and judge.

Headaches are common concussion symptoms. Unfortunately, misdiagnosis is possible. A soldier returns to action before the brain heals. Researchers say subsequent head injuries during this vulnerable time lead to permanent brain damage or death.

Brain injuries have been linked to post-traumatic stress disorder, dementia, Parkinson’s disease and suicide. Over 3 million people suffer head injuries in the U.S. each year. Victims of life-altering injuries caused by negligent parties can be compensated through liability claims.

Source: postandcourier.com, "U.S. troops reeling from explosives-caused pressure that can lead to lasting brain damage" Tony Bartelme, Sep. 16, 2013

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