Blast Injuries in Iraq

Photograph taken by Official War Photographer at an Australian Advanced Dressing Station near Ypres in 1917. The wounded soldier in the lower left of the photograph has the “thousand yard stare” indicative of shell-shock.

There were at least 50 people who suffered blast injuries from the Iranian missile attacks in Iraq. These are referred to by the acronym TBI for traumatic brain injuries. There were around 200 people in that blast zone who were screened for symptoms.

See: https://www.cnn.com/2020/01/28/politics/50-injuries-iran-strike/index.html

Of those 18 were evacuated to Germany for further evaluation and treatment and I gather at least 8 of these were then evacuated to the U.S. If the injury was serious enough to require evacuation out of the war zone, then this is clearly something a whole lot worse than a “headache.”

Blast injuries have been an ongoing problem in our combat forces for the better part of two decades. Some of this has been brought about by the extensive use of IEDs in Iraq and Afghanistan. Some of these IEDs are tied to artillery shells and other large amounts of explosives, resulting in a significant blast. People can be “lightly wounded” in the traditional sense, and still have significant injuries from the blast.

Added to that, we now have a better understanding of the significance of these brain injuries, including concussions. This is not only from combat, but also from such contact sports as American Football and hockey. Hockey has instituted significant concussion protocols and this is now something that is monitored at both the junior levels and more advance levels of hockey. It is no more a matter of just getting rattled, shaking it off and keep on playing. American Football is still struggling to address these issues, especially with the large number of professional players reporting long term brain injuries. Needless to say, brain injures from blast can be significant and have long-term debilitating affects.

This of course is not entirely new, but we are just now beginning to understand the full extent and nature of TBIs. In World War I they used to talk about “shell shock.”

See: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Shell_shock

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Christopher A. Lawrence
Christopher A. Lawrence

Christopher A. Lawrence is a professional historian and military analyst. He is the Executive Director and President of The Dupuy Institute, an organization dedicated to scholarly research and objective analysis of historical data related to armed conflict and the resolution of armed conflict. The Dupuy Institute provides independent, historically-based analyses of lessons learned from modern military experience.
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Mr. Lawrence was the program manager for the Ardennes Campaign Simulation Data Base, the Kursk Data Base, the Modern Insurgency Spread Sheets and for a number of other smaller combat data bases. He has participated in casualty estimation studies (including estimates for Bosnia and Iraq) and studies of air campaign modeling, enemy prisoner of war capture rates, medium weight armor, urban warfare, situational awareness, counterinsurgency and other subjects for the U.S. Army, the Defense Department, the Joint Staff and the U.S. Air Force. He has also directed a number of studies related to the military impact of banning antipersonnel mines for the Joint Staff, Los Alamos National Laboratories and the Vietnam Veterans of American Foundation.
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His published works include papers and monographs for the Congressional Office of Technology Assessment and the Vietnam Veterans of American Foundation, in addition to over 40 articles written for limited-distribution newsletters and over 60 analytical reports prepared for the Defense Department. He is the author of Kursk: The Battle of Prokhorovka (Aberdeen Books, Sheridan, CO., 2015), America’s Modern Wars: Understanding Iraq, Afghanistan and Vietnam (Casemate Publishers, Philadelphia & Oxford, 2015), War by Numbers: Understanding Conventional Combat (Potomac Books, Lincoln, NE., 2017) , The Battle of Prokhorovka (Stackpole Books, Guilford, CT., 2019), The Battle for Kyiv (Frontline Books, Yorkshire, UK, 2023), Aces at Kursk (Air World, Yorkshire, UK, 2024), Hunting Falcon: The Story of WWI German Ace Hans-Joachim Buddecke (Air World, Yorkshire, UK, 2024) and The Siege of Mariupol (Frontline Books, Yorkshire, UK, 2024).
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Mr. Lawrence lives in northern Virginia, near Washington, D.C., with his wife and son.

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