Neither athletes nor soldiers want to "leave anyone behind." But research shows that taking the time to rest after a concussion gets people back to combat and on the field faster and more safely.
So, a great question is what about the military? Well, there's a lot of interaction, just so you know, between, for example, Commissioner Goodell of the NFL and the generals in the army, General Chiarelli in particular, in terms of how to manage this. One of the things I'll tell you, in the military they're redoing their sidelines concussion test, called the 'MACE.' They have some of the smartest military doctors working on how to make this a better test. Now, one thing we didn't talk about that's really important to talk about is culture change. When you look at a warrior, when you look at a soldier, the one thing that really is a theme that pervades that group of men and women, and I know because I was in the army, is that you don't ever leave a man or woman behind, and you don't want to leave the side of the person next to you. So, it is a huge culture change to tell a soldier to take a knee during a firefight and say, "Let us examine you because we don't want you going back into the battle when you're concussed and confused." It's a big deal. That culture change will not happen overnight. These are warriors, these are very brave, courageous soldiers that were trained a certain way and believe you never leave somebody behind. Well, it's no different than the super-athlete that plays professional soccer or football or rugby--same thing. So, we're going to have to see a culture change, and that will not happen overnight, but I will tell you, in the military, talking to the generals, it's very interesting. So, what they're finding is if people had multiple IEDs over days, concussion after concussion after concussion, after a while, they ended up not returning to battle, because they had such a severe traumatic brain injury from the cumulative effect of being blown up or getting those shock waves hitting them, that they didn't return to battle, but what they're doing now, and they're piloting this project, is they're taking the soldiers out once they're close enough to an IED and they suffer a concussion and letting them go back to the barracks to recover. Interestingly, more of those soldiers are now returning back to the front lines, because they have recovered, and they're able to go back and fight with their fellow warriors. So, in fact, that's going to take a culture change, but it's happening, and General Chiarelli told me that they're now able to return soldiers to the front line, once they take them off the line to recover from their concussions. It's an evolving field. We're understanding the science better We have to change the culture.
Posted on BrainLine October 23, 2012.
Produced by Vicky Youcha, Ashley Gilleland, Justin Rhodes, and Erica Queen, BrainLine.
Richard Ellenbogen, MD is a University of Washington professor and chairman of the Department of Neurological Surgery. He is chief and attending of neurological surgery, Harborview Medical Center and the co-chair of the NFL's Head, Neck, and Spine Committee.