For many, a battlefield injury might conjure images of physical wounds, perhaps a soldier on crutches or with a scar. However, some of the most devastating injuries remain invisible to the naked eye

Blast exposures and TBIs fall squarely in this category. These injuries, often dismissed because they don’t leave a visible mark, can reshape a soldier’s life profoundly and unexpectedly.

The echo of a blast on the battlefield resonates far beyond the immediate aftermath. Its shockwaves can traverse the tissues and fibers of those caught within its wrath.

In our exploration today, we’ll venture into the concealed realm of these injuries. We’ll uncover how something as intangible as a blast wave can have a tangible and lasting effect on the brain.

The Science Behind the Blast

An MRI scan of a brain injury with herniation. (Wikimedia Commons)

Picture the concentric ripples created by a pebble cast into a pond. Amplify that visual a thousandfold, with waves careening through air instead of water. 

When explosives detonate, they produce a high-pressure wave known as a blast wave. This wave travels faster than the speed of sound, turning into a supersonic wall of sheer force.

Primary and Secondary Injuries

These rapidly moving waves can lead to two primary types of injuries: primary and secondary. 

The primary injuries directly result from the wave, significantly impacting air-filled organs like the ears and lungs. However, the brain concerns us most regarding blast exposures and TBIs