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#1 2015-02-01 17:54:22


Перевод с английского. Публицистика.



Brain trauma from blast force is the signature injury of the Iraq and Afghanistan campaigns, afflicting hundreds of thousands of U.S. combat personnel. Although unseen, the damage strikes deeply into a soldier’s mind and psyche.

By Caroline Alexander

Inside the protective bunker I waited with the explosives team, fingers wedged firmly in my ears. Outside, shot number 52, trailing a 20-foot length of yellow-and-green-striped detonating cord, was securely taped to the wall of a one-room plywood building with a steel fire door. There was a countdown from five, a low “pow,” and a dull thump in the center of my chest. The thump is the hallmark of blast. “You feel the thump,” one team member told me. “I’ve been in blast events where we’re actually hundreds or even thousands of feet away, and I still feel that thump.”

The mystery of what that thump does had brought me to a World War II bombing range some 40 miles southeast of Denver. Back then it was used to test half-ton ordnance; now it serves to study controlled explosives used by soldiers to blast holes through walls and doors in combat areas—standard practice in modern warfare. The eventual objective of these tests is to discover what that blast thump does to the human brain.

According to the U.S. Department of Defense, between 2001 and 2014 some 230,000 soldiers and veterans were identified as suffering from so-called mild traumatic brain injury (TBI), mostly as a result of exposure to blast events. The variety of symptoms associated with the condition—headache, seizures, motor disorders, sleep disorders, dizziness, visual disturbances, ringing in the ears, mood changes, and cognitive, memory, and speech difficulties—the fact that they resemble symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), and the fact that exposure to blast events often was not logged in the early years of the campaigns in Afghanistan and Iraq make it impossible to pin down casualty figures.

Despite the prevalence of the condition, the most fundamental questions about it remain unanswered. Not only is there no secure means of diagnosis, but there are also no known ways to prevent it and no cure. Above all, there is no consensus within the medical community about the nature of blast-induced injury or by what mechanism blast force damages the brain.

BOOM: In the field a single blast event represents a virtually simultaneous amalgam of distinct components, each uniquely damaging. Ignition sparks a chemical reaction, an instantaneous expansion of gases that pushes out a spherical wall of gas and air faster than the speed of sound. This shock wave envelops any object it encounters in a balloon of static pressure. During this fleeting stage—the primary blast effect—the individual does not move. An abrupt fall in pressure follows, creating a vacuum. Then comes the secondary blast effect, a rush of supersonic wind that floods the vacuum, hurling and fragmenting objects it encounters, weaponizing debris as high-speed, penetrating projectiles.

Marines on patrol in Afghanistan in 2009 noticed a motorcyclist pass by, and moments later an IED exploded. “It’s like being kicked by a horse, a horse with a foot that could cover your entire body,” said one survivor of an IED attack.  The wind itself causes the tertiary blast effects, lifting human beings or even 15-ton armored vehicles in the air, slamming them against walls, rocks, dusty roadsides. The quaternary blast effects are everything else—fire that burns, chemicals that sear, dust that asphyxiates.

The mystery lies in the effects of the primary blast. Theories range wildly: Is it the shock wave’s entry to the brain through cranial orifices—eyes, nose, ears, mouth—that causes injury, and if so, how? Or is external shock pressure on the chest channeled inside vasculature up through the neck and into the brain? Does the transmission of complex wave activity by the skull into the semiliquid brain cause an embolism? Does pressure deform the skull, causing it to squeeze the brain? Is the explosive noise damaging? The flash of light? The majority of soldiers diagnosed with blast-induced neurotrauma have also been hurled or rattled by blast wind. Is military neurotrauma, then, simply an exotic form of concussion?



#2 2015-02-01 18:02:31


Re: Перевод с английского. Публицистика.

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