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Entries in U.S. Army (3)

Friday
Jun152012

NFL, Military Partner to Reduce Concussions

Al Messerschmidt/Getty Images(WASHINGTON) -- They are known as the invisible injuries. They may not result in bruises, breaks, or even loss of limbs, but the results of concussions can be disastrous, leading to severe brain trauma as well as psychological and neurological disorders.

Concussions are injuries that the NFL knows too well. Six out of 10 NFL athletes have suffered concussions and nearly one-third reported having three or more, according to a 2000 study conducted by the American Academy of Neurology. In a more recent study, conducted in 2007 by the University of North Carolina's Center for the Study of Retired Athletes, 20 percent of the retired athletes who recalled having three or more concussions suffered from depression.

But while the consequences are pervasive, the problem is not unique to athletes. For General Raymond T. Odierno, chief of staff for the U.S. Army, concussions are often looked at as lesser injuries and are rarely discussed among his soldiers.

"We have to make them [the soldiers] understand that you have to come forward because it has to be treated," Odierno said.

For this reason, he and the United Service Organizations Inc. (USO) have partnered with the NFL to try and eradicate the stigma associated with head injuries. He met with NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell last month to discuss how a future campaign will play out.

As a former football player himself at West Point, Odierno says there are more similarities than differences between a soldier and an athlete and believes that the partnership will assist in changing attitudes about head injuries.

"There's a lot of things similar to sports and the army: the teamwork, not letting your buddies down, not letting your teammates down, not letting your infantry squad mates down. ... I think part of it is the stigma of not letting your fellow player down or not letting your fellow squad member down," he said.

There have been nearly 230,000 reports of traumatic brain injuries among the soldiers deployed to Iraq and Afghanistan, according to military figures. Head injuries have been linked to post-traumatic stress disorder in soldiers and a study done earlier this year found links between head injuries and a degenerative brain disorder known as chronic traumatic encephalopathy.

While the military puts its troops through rigorous tests before, during and after deployment, it is hoping to pool resources with the NFL to better its technology, improve its marketing, and expand its medical information.

Since Odierno and Goodell's meeting, a group of players, coaches, analysts, and doctors have met at the Pentagon. The first session included Pittsburgh safety Ryan Clark, Arizona receiver Larry Fitzgerald, and ESPN analyst Merrill Hoge. A meeting Friday sat players down with members of the Army and Marines.

Odierno expects for the formal campaign to be launched later this summer.

And while details of practical effectiveness have yet to be seen, Odierno hopes that the shared experiences of the servicemen and women and the athletes can spur collective change.

"I think that if they see somebody they know," he said, whether personally or know him from playing football willing to come forward, willing to say, 'I have a problem,' maybe it will make it easier for him to say he has a problem," he said.

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Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio

Tuesday
Nov012011

Military Burn Pits: 'Inconclusive' Evidence They Are Unhealthy

US.Army.mil(WASHINGTON) -- 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

Thursday
May192011

Army Releases Latest Mental Health Survey for Troops in Afghanistan, Iraq  

Siri Stafford/Lifesize/Thinkstock(WASHINGTON) -- The Army’s annual survey of the mental health condition of troops deployed to Afghanistan and Iraq was made public Thursday. Some details were made public a few weeks ago by USA Today, namely that morale among Army troops last year had reached the lowest point in five years.
 
But there’s no context in news reports that that number would show morale had also dipped significantly in 2007 to 48.7 percent from 65.7 percent in 2005, a year when violence had yet to peak in Iraq.  The 2010 rate of 46.5 percent is comparable to 2007, a tough year in Iraq as the surge of troops got underway and more troops saw more combat.  That’s comparable to what happened in 2010 in Afghanistan where there was a comparable troop surge.
 
A 19.8 percent rate of acute stress and combined psychological problems in 2010 is more than double what it was in 2005.  But they’re only three percent larger than the 16 percent in 2009 and still below the 23.3 percent recorded during the violent year of 2007.  However, the study’s authors say the 2007 sample numbers were too small, so making comparisons aren’t totally reliable.
 
Col. Paul Bliese, one of the report’s authors, said Thursday it was no surprise that morale had suffered given the dramatic increase in fighting, which they said noted the highest level of exposure to combat among those surveyed since they started doing the mental health studies in either Afghanistan or Iraq.  The study calculates a mean number to determine that rate.   Certain categories are higher than ever.  Among those surveyed, almost 80 percent said they’d shot at an enemy, 48.4 percent said they’d killed a combatant, and 62.4 percent said they’d experienced an IED go off near them.
 
However, Army officials who briefed this seventh version of the survey found the troops felt they were better trained and equipped for combat stress and for identifying fellow soldiers at risk of suicides, etc.  One of the report’s authors, said, “I look at those items...one can make the case that here have been some positive changes in the military…preparing soldiers for the harsh reality of combat.”
 
As in previous surveys, the troops that have been deployed three or four times have reported higher psychological issues than those with fewer deployments.
 
Lt. Gen. Eric Schoomaker, the Army’s surgeon general noted, “There are few stresses on the human psyche as extreme as the exposure to combat."
 
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