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Military policy now mandates head-injury evaluations

POSTED: March 17, 2010 4:50 p.m.
Defense Department officials expect to launch a new policy in the coming months that will make head-injury evaluations mandatory for all troops who suffer possible concussions, said a senior official with the Defense Centers of Excellence for Psychological Health and Traumatic Brain Injury.
The current guidelines for treating troops with such injuries allows for them to come forward on their own. Troops in combat and in close contact with explosions or blasts make the decision on whether they need to be evaluated for concussions or head injuries.
But under the new policy, every service member exposed to such an incident will be required to seek attention. Those troops also will be required to rest and will be excluded from their unit’s mission cycle for at least 24 hours, Kathy Helmick, the senior director for traumatic brain injury at the center, said in an interview with American Forces Press Service.
“What is getting ready to become policy is a paradigm shift from a service member coming forward and saying, ‘I have a complaint’ to an incident-based protocol,” Helmick said. “When those events happen, you don’t get to say, ‘I’m having symptoms.’ You go to medical and you get checked out, regardless of whether you have symptoms or not.”
Early detection and treatment is the cornerstone of the new policy, she said. The guidelines will help health-care providers and researchers track such occurrences as well as expand their knowledge in treatment. The policy also will help to ensure unit readiness and longevity in the afflicted troops, Helmick said.
 

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