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Pascrell TBI Amendment Passes House

Legislation directs DOD to conduct study of blast-induced traumatic brain injuries sustained by soldiers

WASHINGTON, DC - Today, the House of Representatives passed an amendment authored by U.S. Rep. Bill Pascrell, Jr. (D-NJ-09) that would direct the U.S. Department of Defense to conduct a study on blast injury mechanics impacting soldiers on the battlefield. Rep. Pascrell's amendment was included in National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2015 (H.R. 4435), which passed with a vote of 325-98.


"It's imperative we provide our brave men and women in uniform the care they were promised upon returning from the battlefield," said Rep. Pascrell, co-founder and co-chair of the Congressional Brain Injury Task Force. "Although the Department of Defense has taken important steps toward identifying and treating our soldiers who have suffered traumatic brain injuries, we must ensure every resource possible is available to those serving our nation.  Key investments in this type of traumatic brain injury research will help prevent soldiers from sustaining this devastating injury by ensuring that the necessary data exists to design soldiers’ protective gear in a way that limits the impact of primary blast."

Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI) is commonly known as the signature wound of the conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan. The Department of Defense’s Peer-Reviewed Psychological Health and TBI Research Program conducts extensive research on TBI; however, little is known about primary blast injury and its connection to TBI.

Researchers at New Jersey Institute of Technology (NJIT) are developing a major national research facility in response to this health challenge. By developing a comprehensive program, NJIT researchers hope to gain knowledge about TBI and to translate that knowledge into better therapies and protective measures.

“We would be grateful to see any new funding that can be directed to preventing or reducing the incidence of TBI experienced by our warfighters,” said Dr. Donald H. Sebastian, Sr. Vice President at NJIT.  “Our researchers are working to pinpoint the mechanism for cellular damage caused by exposure to blasts like IEDs, and to work that knowledge back to a new generation of protective gear.”

Primary blast injury occurs when an explosion generates a blast wave traveling faster than sound and creating a surge of high pressure immediately followed by a vacuum. Studies have shown that the blast wave shoots through armor and soldiers' skulls and brains, even if it doesn't draw blood. Researchers still do not know the exact mechanisms by which primary blast injuries damages the brain's cells and circuits.

However, the blast wave's pressure has been show to compress the torso, impacting blood vessels, which then send damaging energy pulses into the brain. The pressure can also be transferred partially through the skull, interacting with the brain. Understanding how a primary blast injury affects the brain is imperative to developing appropriate prevention measures, including ensuring proper equipment.

Rep. Pascrell's amendment would direct the Department of Defense through the Peer-Reviewed Psychological Health and TBI Research Program to conduct a study on blast injury mechanics covering a wide range of primary blast injury conditions, including TBI, in order to accelerate solution development in this critical area.

Approximately 1.7 million Americans experience TBI each year and an estimated 5.3 million Americans are living with long-term, severe disabilities as a result of brain injury. Another 176,000 men and women have sustained a TBI in the conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Founded by Rep. Pascrell in 2001, the Congressional Brain Injury Task Force’s mission is to further provide education and awareness of brain injury (incidence, prevalence, prevention and treatment) and support funding for basic and applied research on brain injury rehabilitation and development of a cure.  The Task Force is bipartisan and made up of over one hundred members of Congress.

***

Statement for the Record
Congressman Bill Pascrell, Jr.
National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2015 – Pascrell Amendment #80
May 22, 2014

 

Mr. Speaker, I rise today to discuss an important issue facing our troops – primary blast injury and its connection to traumatic brain injury.

TBI has become the “signature wound” of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, with 20% soldiers deployed are estimated to have experienced a brain injury.  I would like to thank Chairman McKeon and Ranking Member Smith for their commitment to this issue in recent authorizations.

As Co-Chair and Co-Founder of the Congressional Brain Injury Task Force, I have spent the last thirteen years fighting for patients with brain injuries, both on and off the battlefield. We all know that traumatic brain injury (TBI) is the signature wound of the conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan, and while we made great progress on ensuring our soldiers have the best care, there is still more work to be done.

The high rate of TBI and blast-related concussion events resulting from current combat operations directly impacts the health and safety of individual service members, and subsequently the level of unit readiness and troop retention. The Department of Defense (DoD) is actively seeking strategies to prevent, mitigate, and treat blast-related injuries, including TBI.

Since I began working on this issue, our knowledge of the brain has expanded at an incredible pace.  In recent years, we have made strong investments in TBI research. The DoD’s Peer-Reviewed Psychological Health and TBI Research Program conducts extensive research on TBI; however, little is known about primary blast injury and its connection to TBI. Primary blast injury occurs when an explosion generates a blast wave traveling faster than sound and creating a surge of high pressure immediately followed by a vacuum. Studies show that the blast wave shoots through armor and soldiers' skulls and brains, even if it doesn't draw blood. Researchers still do not know the exact mechanisms by which primary blast injuries damages the brain's cells and circuits. However, the blast wave's pressure has been show to compress the torso, impacting blood vessels, which then send damaging energy pulses into the brain. The pressure can also be transferred partially through the skull, interacting with the brain.

My amendment would direct the Department of Defense to conduct a study on blast injury mechanics covering a wide range of primary blast injury conditions, including TBI. Understanding how a primary blast injury affects the brain is imperative to developing appropriate prevention measures, including ensuring proper equipment. I was glad to see this amendment pass the House last night, and I hope that it will be adopted in the final bill after negotiations with the Senate.

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