The wound known as traumatic brain injury, or TBI, has become the signature injury of wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. Engineers are helping treat the wounded. Today, on Engineering Works!
Traumatic brain injury can happen when your brain gets a sudden hard jolt, like the one you’d get if a roadside bomb or other improvised explosive device exploded near you. Military authorities estimate that more than 200,000 troops have experienced TBIs.
TBIs are sneaky. Soldiers and marines can have TBIs without shedding a drop of blood, and yet be disabled for the rest of their lives. Because the damage happens inside, where medics can’t see it.
Engineers and doctors working for the Defense Advanced Projects Research Agency, or DARPA, are testing a new device that tells medics if a trooper has been close enough to a blast to be at risk of TBI, even without a visible injury. The wristwatch-sized device is called – you guessed it – a blast gauge. It rides at the back of the head on the webbing that holds soldiers’ helmets onto their heads.
It measures the acceleration – how fast your head moves – and pressure your head and your brain undergo. It’s the sudden violent jolt of being near an explosion that causes TBI. A simple green-amber-red readout tips off medics even if the trooper tries to downplay the injury.
We haven’t been near any explosions lately, but our readout tells us our brain has had enough for today. See you next time.
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Start the discussion: Any kind of wound is a bad thing, but it’s nifty when technology can help frontline medics diagnose wounds as sneaky and potentially serious as traumatic brain injury.