What is the Effect of Repeated Low-Level Explosives on Canadian Armed Forces’ Breaching Instructors & Range Staff?

Research Paper Title

Blast in Context: The Neuropsychological and Neurocognitive Effects of Long-Term Occupational Exposure to Repeated Low-Level Explosives on Canadian Armed Forces’ Breaching Instructors and Range Staff.

Background

Currently, there is strong interest within the military to better understand the effects of long-term occupational exposure to repeated low-level blast on health and performance.

To gain traction on the chronic sequelae of blast, the researchers focused on breaching-a tactical technique for gaining entry into closed/blocked spaces by placing explosives and maintaining a calculated safe distance from the detonation.

Methods

Using a cross-sectional design, they compared the neuropsychological and neurocognitive profiles of breaching instructors and range staff to sex- and age-matched Canadian Armed Forces (CAF) controls.

Next, using a multivariate approach, they explored the impact of other possible sources of injury, including concussion and prior war-zone deployment on the same outcomes.

Results

Univariate tests demonstrated that breaching was associated with greater post-concussive symptoms (Rivermead Post Concussion Symptoms Questionnaire) and lower levels of energy (RAND SF-36).

In addition, breaching instructors and range staff were slower on a test that requires moving and thinking simultaneously (i.e., cognitive-motor integration).

Concussion history was associated with higher post-concussive scores and musculoskeletal problems, whereas deployment was associated with higher post-concussive scores, but lower energy and greater PTSD symptomatology (using PCL-5).

Conclusions

The researchers suggest that their results indicate that although breaching, concussion, and deployment were similarly correlated with greater post-concussive symptoms, concussion history appears to be uniquely associated with altered musculoskeletal function, whereas deployment history appears to be uniquely associated with lower energy and risk of PTSD.

They argue that the broader injury context must, therefore, be considered when studying the impact of repetitive low-level explosives on health and performance in military members.

Reference

Vartanian, O., Tenn, C., Rhind, S.G., Nakashima, A., Di Battista, A.P., Sergio, L.E., Gorbet, D.J., Fraser, D.D., Colantonio,A., King, K., Lam, Q., Saunders, D. & Jetly, R. (2020) Blast in Context: The Neuropsychological and Neurocognitive Effects of Long-Term Occupational Exposure to Repeated Low-Level Explosives on Canadian Armed Forces’ Breaching Instructors and Range Staff. Frontiers in Neurology. doi: 10.3389/fneur.2020.588531. eCollection 2020.

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