BLAST military project can detect brain injury from explosions

The Office of Naval Research is funding a new project to develop BLAST, the Blast Load Assessment Sense and Test technology. This system, once created, will help identify potential traumatic brain injuries in soldiers and other military personnel who are within range of some kind of blast, potentially getting them necessary medical attention promptly. Such technology may help prevent serious brain injury resulting from multiple traumatic blast exposures.

The Office of Naval Research points out that while body armor can help protect soldiers from shrapnel and other physical threats resulting from a nearby blast, it can't protect from the shock wave and pressure that may result in minor traumatic brain injury, the kind that may go undiagnosed and untreated in the absence of major symptoms.

The BLAST system would help mitigate this by analyzing the shock wave and pressure and determining whether it is great enough that a traumatic brain injury is possible. Though the Defense Department currently requires someone within 50 meters of a blast to take 24 hours off and get a medical evaluation, that is impractical and not terribly useful.

The amount of time needed to detect a traumatic brain injury is longer than 24 hours, and likewise too many people at a forward operating base may need to take 24 hours off after a blast, resulting in personnel issues. By embedding BLAST sensors in body armor and helmets, medical personnel can determine the shock wave and pressure each individual soldier was exposed to, and couple that with specific tests to determine whether any time off and further evaluation is warranted.

SOURCE: Office of Naval Research