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New Brain Testing for Troops Returning from Combat

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By David Goguen on April 09, 2009 9:53 AM

Some U.S. troops returning from service in Iraq and Afghanistan are being evaluated for potential effects of traumatic brain injury, testing that provides a post-combat bookend for a Department of Defense policy requiring that soldiers undergo similar brain function testing shortly before their deployment. 

The DoD's pre-deployment brain testing of soldiers, a system that has been in place since 2008, includes "basic math, matching numbers and symbols and identifying patterns to measure response time and accuracy," and more than 150,000 service members across all branches of the armed forces have undergone those tests, according to the Associated Press.

Now the 101st Airborne Division is testing its division members as they return to Fort Campbell, Kentucky after service in the Middle East.

The AP reports that the new testing is part of the military's focus on traumatic brain injuries (TBI), "the signature injury of the wars, potentially crippling and sometimes hard to detect damage from blows that can include an exploding roadside bomb, a mortar blast or a vehicle crash."

A 2008 American Forces Press Service article spotlights Lt. Col. (Dr.) Margaret Swanberg, the only Army neurologist deployed in Iraq, who trains military medics and doctors in military acute concussion evaluation (MACE), a test that "allows medics and doctors to tell whether soldiers show signs of traumatic brain injuries by asking a series of questions" that evaluate short-term memory, long-term memory, and motor functions.