A new military study has found that almost 6 percent of soldiers who took hand-to-hand combat courses at a Texas Army base were struck in the head and suffered symptoms the Pentagon says are consistent with concussions, also called mild traumatic brain injuries.
Over the last decade, hundreds of thousands of soldiers have taken such classes — called “combatives” — at bases nationwide before deploying overseas.
Researchers stress that the study is relatively small, drawing from classes at Ft. Hood with just under 2,000 soldiers. And they haven’t finished the study yet. But the preliminary results have sparked concern among brain specialists inside and outside the military, suggesting that some soldiers went to war in Iraq and Afghanistan having suffered mild traumatic brain injuries in training — and might have been more vulnerable to long-term consequences from additional concussions later.
“The more hits your brain takes, the less likely it will be that you will have a full recovery,” said Dr. Alex Dromerick, director of neuroscience research at the National Rehabilitation Hospital in Washington, D.C.
Retired Lt. Col. Michael Russell, who is leading the Army study, said he wouldn’t comment on it until the final version is released.