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March 16, 2010 - Pentagon Sets Brain Trauma Protocols

Guidelines for treating mild traumatic brain injury among service personnel in combat areas are being rolled out, the U.S. Defense Department said Tuesday.

"The tenet behind this is we strongly believe that early detection and early treatment decrease the complaints of post-traumatic brain injury after sustaining an injury," Kathy Helmick, director of traumatic brain injury clinical standards of care at the Defense Centers of Excellence for Psychological Health and Traumatic Brain Injury, said in a Pentagon release.

The new protocol will go into effect soon, Helmick said. Among other things, the protocol will make head injury evaluations mandatory for military personnel who are near explosions or blasts, rather than troops deciding for themselves whether to report any symptoms.

"We are fast-tracking our research portfolios so that we can translate the findings from research being done into clinical practice and improve care on the battlefield as soon as possible," Helmick said.

The Pentagon also is working with the National Football League to share information on traumatic brain injury research, she said. The NFL and the Defense Department both stepped up efforts to learn more about brain injuries and implement measures for prevention and treatment.

"(The) groups are working on creating a change in attitude so that service members, like athletes, don't discount symptoms but get early treatment, which will lead to early recovery," Helmick said.

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