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Neurological Effects of Repeated Exposure to Military Occupational Levels of Blast: A Review of Scientific Literature

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Technical Report

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This report details the state of the science regarding the relationship between occupational exposure to low-level blasts and nervous system problems in military service members. This literature review was completed as part of the 2017 State of the Science SoS Meeting sponsored by the United States Department of Defense DoD Blast Injury Research Program Coordinating Office. The goal of the SoS and its associated processes is to identify what is known and not known pertaining to key blast injuryrelated topics and emerging issues. The topic of the 7th SoS as well as this supporting literature review is The Neurological Effects of Repeated Exposure to Military Occupational Levels of Blast Implications for Health and Prevention. Over the past decade, awareness of the central nervous system CNS effects of explosive blast exposure has increased. A key driver of that awareness has been the blast-related injuries suffered by service members during combat operations in Iraq and Afghanistan. As U.S. combat operations in these regions have largely come to a close, there has been growing concern over repetitive forms of blast exposure during military service that is, most often, unrelated to combat. Examples of these forms of exposure include exposure to weapon systems, such as recoilless rifles and shoulder-launched rocket launchers e.g., the Carl Gustavantitank weapon, that can produce more than one blast exposure per round. The repeated exposure to these low-level blasts raises new questions of effects on CNS structure and function and on the health of those service members who have been exposed to repeated discharges. The literature review that follows has targeted the scientific literature pertaining to the effects of repeated military occupational blast exposures, specifically exploring what is known regarding the broad nervous system consequences of these exposures.

Subject Categories:

  • Explosions
  • Anatomy and Physiology
  • Weapons Effects (Biological)

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