By Heath Druzin
Copyright 2014 Stars and Stripes
BAGRAM AIR FIELD, Afghanistan — Despite the constant warrior metaphors and references to “the trenches” from sports commentators, the experience of NFL players and troops at war is, of course, incomparable. But they do share one thing in common: a high risk of suffering traumatic brain injuries.
Government scientists and military doctors have been working with the NFL to develop sensor technology to study traumatic brain injury (TBI), or concussion, a still little-understood phenomenon that affects hundreds of thousands of troops who have served in Iraq and Afghanistan, where the roadside bomb has been a common weapon of insurgents.
The NFL is in the midst of its own concussion crisis, with an increasing number of high-profile former stars speaking publicly about what many doctors see as the devastating effects of repeated blows to the head.
For the past three years, the NFL and U.S. military have been working closely together to develop the technology, which can aid the detection and treatment of concussions in both football players and soldiers, said U.S. Army Lt. Col. Frank Lozano, product manager for soldier protective equipment at the Army’s Program Executive Office.
“This ongoing collaboration has allowed both communities to better understand the best ideas, processes and technologies for the increased detection of TBI,” Lozano said.
TBI has been one of the most common injuries sustained by troops in Iraq and Afghanistan, with studies finding up to 20 percent of all U.S. veterans from those wars sustaining such an injury, with numbers for front line troops much higher.