Entries in Army (5)


NFL & Army Team Up to Combat Traumatic Brain Injuries

iStockphoto/Thinkstock(WASHINGTON) -- On Capitol Hill today, U.S. Army’s Vice Chief of Staff General Lloyd Austin along with NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell met with members of Congress to discuss a joint initiative by the Army and NFL to increase awareness and education about head injuries.

The effort aimed at Army soldiers and the NFL and football world,  carries a message that  together they can better address traumatic brain injuries that are sustained both on the battlefield of war and on the football field.

At a press conference, General Austin pledged that the Army is “not going to stop” until there is progress made, and that the Army is “committed to making that progress.” Austin also said that much has been learned about traumatic brain injuries in the last ten years than in the previous 50 years.

Goodell pointed to some of the work that has been done between the Army and NFL, like sharing data and research on traumatic brain injuries, and sharing equipment and censors that mutually benefit soldiers and football players.

Goodell said that player safety is a number one priority for the NFL and that working with the Army can “make our troops safer, sports safer, and society safer.”

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


Army Suicide Rates Soar Since Start of Iraq War, Study Finds

Spencer Platt/Getty Images(WASHINGTON) -- Since the start of the Iraq War in 2003, the rate of suicide among U.S. Army soldiers has soared, according to a new study from the U.S. Army Public Health Command.

The study, an analysis of data from the Army Behavioral Health Integrated Data Environment, shows a striking 80 percent increase in suicides among Army personnel between 2004 and 2008.  The rise parallels increasing rates of depression, anxiety and other mental health conditions in soldiers, the study said.

The high number of suicides are "unprecedented in over 30 years of U.S. Army records," according to the authors of the study, which was published Wednesday in the journal Injury Prevention.  Based on the data and the timing of the increase in suicide rates, the authors calculated that about 40 percent of the Army's suicides in 2008 could be associated with the U.S. military escalation in Iraq.

"This study does not show that U.S. military operations in Iraq and Afghanistan cause suicide," said Dr. Michelle Chervak, one of the study's authors and a senior epidemiologist at the U.S. Army Public Health Command.  "This study does suggest that an Army engaged in prolonged combat operations is a population under stress, and that mental health conditions and suicide can be expected to increase under these circumstances."

From 1977 to 2003, suicide rates in the Army closely matched the rates of suicide in the civilian population, and were even on a downward trend.  But after 2004, the rates began to climb fast, outpacing the rates in civilians by 2008.

In 2007 and 2008 alone, 255 active duty soldiers committed suicide.  The vast majority of the suicides since 2004 were by men; and 69 percent had seen active combat duty.  Nearly half were between ages 18 and 24.  And 54 percent of those who committed suicide were from among the lower ranks of enlisted personnel.

The study found that suicide rates were higher among soldiers who had been diagnosed with a mental illness in the year before their death.

Soldiers who had been diagnosed with major depression were more than 11 times as likely to commit suicide, and suicide was 10 times more likely among those with anxiety.  More than 25 percent of the soldiers who took their lives had been diagnosed with adjustment disorder, a term for the immediate emotional fallout from proximity to stressful events.

The association between mental health woes and the risk of suicide is well known to mental health professionals, but Chervak said the purpose of the study was to validate mental health diagnoses as a major risk factor for the increasing number of suicides in the Army.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


Military Burn Pits: 'Inconclusive' Evidence They Are Unhealthy -- While most bases in Iraq and Afghanistan at some point during the war contained open burn pits, a new report suggests there's not enough evidence to directly link respiratory problems of soldiers, to fumes emitted by the burn pits.

The report, released by the Institute of Medicine, a health arm of the National Academy of Sciences, analyzed past research collected by the U.S. Department of Defense. Insufficient data and limited research made it difficult for the IOM committee to draw hard conclusions, the report stated.

The committee called for long-term studies that would track soldiers from the time of their deployment to Joint Base Balad over many years and monitor their development of chronic diseases.

"Such a study will also help physicians and other scientists determine if the burn pits contributed to chronic diseases experienced by armed service personnel after being exposed to the burn pits," the American Thoracic Society, a nonprofit organization that has followed the issue among military service members, said a written statement.

The U.S. Department of Defense, which sponsored the report, states that it has shut down all burn pits in Iraq – replacing some with closed incinerators -- and plans to do the same in Afghanistan by the end of the year.

While the data is not so clear cut, mounting evidence suggests that a growing number already exposed to fumes from burn pits may later develop later chronic and irreparable diseases, according to Dr. Robert Miller, associate professor of medicine at Vanderbilt University.

Miller's study, published July in the New England Journal of Medicine, found that nearly half of 80 soldiers in Fort Campbell, Ky., who could not pass a standard two mile run because of breathing problems, were diagnosed with constrictive bronchiolitis. More than 80 percent of those with constrictive bronchiolitis had been exposed to dust storms, and more than 60 percent had been exposed to burn pits.

"We did not have data that said these guys were sick because of burn pits," said Miller. "We have to follow these guys very closely."

Standard tests that are used to detect respiratory diseases, such as a pulmonary function test, may not pick up the soldier's condition.

"There are a number of them that are concerned that they're written off as being normal because their pulmonary function tests are normal," said Miller. "Some are concerned they're not eligible for disability, because even though they're not deployable, their pulmonary tests are normal."

For many who are more commonly diagnosed with constrictive bronchiolitis, not even a CT scan can detect the disease. Only a lung biopsy works, Miller said.

Miller suggested that soldiers undergo a baseline pulmonary function test pre-deployment. Soldiers should then be administered another test once they return home to compare the results for any changes, he said.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


Army Vet Struggles to Receive Brain Treatment as Private Contractor

Courtesy Jennifer Barcklay(SPOKANE, Wash.) -- Jennifer Barcklay, a civilian contractor who was injured by a bomb in Afghanistan, will finally receive therapy for a traumatic brain injury after a nearly two-year fight to get treatment.

While Barcklay, an Army veteran, needed specialized medical treatment after serving her country, she faced two problems: she is a private contractor and not eligible for treatment active duty soldiers can receive, and she lives in Spokane, Washington miles away from hospitals offering that treatment.

On Wednesday, almost two years after she survived a mortar blast in Afghanistan and one year after doctors first recommended cognitive rehabilitation therapy, her insurer agreed to pay for this expensive treatment.  She and her attorney, David Linker, received approval in the form of a letter dated June 15, approving travel arrangements and treatment at a specific facility in California.

After the long waiting period, Barcklay said she has mixed feelings.

"I'm happy that they're finally doing what they're supposed to do, but I'm not sure about the whole process," she said.  "What it put me and my family through was horrible."

Barcklay, 40, worked for defense contractors starting from 2006 after being honorably discharged from the Army in 1996 for a knee injury.  But her insurer, Chartis Insurance, a division of AIG, wouldn't cover her cognitive rehabilitation therapy, as first reported by the Spokesman-Review.

The therapy is an expensive treatment that thousands of U.S. soldiers are receiving.  Those soldiers can usually obtain treatment from Department of Veterans Affairs facilities because they obtained the injuries while on active duty.

Military contractors are often in dangerous war zones but denied medical benefits despite statutory protections.  The Defense Base Act of 1941, in fact, requires defense contractors to provide medical and disability insurance for their employees in war zones.

Barcklay was a civilian helicopter mechanic when she obtained her injuries.  In September 2009, an enemy mortar exploded 10 yards away from her at Forward Operating Base Shank in Afghanistan.  The blast, which severely injured two other people, slammed her into the ground, causing ear trauma, joint pain and, she says, it continues to cause frequent seizures.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


Blood Test to Flag Concussions? Army Says Yes

Photo Courtesy - Getty Images(ALACHUA, Fla.) –- Preliminary reports on as-yet unpublished Army research have offered a look at what may be in the future for the diagnosis of mild to moderate brain injury.

Army researchers say they may have found a new procedure that may make it possible someday to diagnose mild concussions quickly and easily.

Led by Banyan Biomarkers, researchers drew and tested the blood of 34 people taken to the hospital for head injuries and then diagnosed with mild concussions at a trauma unit.

The blood tests showed the presence of certain proteins -- biomarkers -- that do not normally show up in the blood of uninjured people. The theory is that the concussive jolt to the brain unleashes these proteins in the bloodstream.

If, in fact, the biomarkers in the subjects' blood turn out to be correlated with their brain injuries, it would be the first suggestion that a blood test to look for brain injury in humans could be a reality.

Experts contacted by ABC News differed in their opinions on the Banyan-Army study.

A much larger study, funded by the U.S. Defense Department, is expected to begin next year. It will involve 1,200 patients at 30 trauma centers around the country.

Copyright 2010 ABC News Radio

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