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Repetitive exposure to breaching-related blasts linked to brain damage in police, military: study

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Charlottesville, VA — Frequent exposure to minor explosions may increase the risk of brain injury and inflammation among members of law enforcement and the military, results of a recent study led by researchers from the University of Virginia show.

The researchers analyzed the brains of 20 specialists who use explosives to gain entry into buildings and other structures and compared them with those of a 14-person control group. Whereas the “breachers” were exposed to an average of 4,628 blasts, members of the control group were exposed to an average of three.

Findings from blood measurements and neuropsychological assessments revealed that the participants who have been repeatedly exposed to breaching-related blasts exhibited increased levels of brain injury and inflammation. They also showed statistically significant differences in blood flow, brain structure and brain activity.

 

“This study is the first to comprehensively assess military and law enforcement personnel to better understand whether repetitive blast exposure over a career can lead to changes within the brain,” James Stone, lead study author and researcher at UVA, said in a press release. “This is an area of high importance to military and law enforcement communities, as it is becoming increasingly clear there may be occupational health considerations related to repetitive low-level blast exposure in training and operations over the career of an exposed individual.”

The study was published online Nov. 6 in the Journal of Neurotrauma.

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