The Ministry of Defence is conducting a major study into brain injury in troops returning from Iraq and Afghanistan amid fears that thousands of soldiers may have suffered damage after being exposed to high-velocity explosions.
The US army says as many as 20% of its soldiers and marines have suffered "mild traumatic brain injury" (mTBI) from blows to the head or shockwaves caused by explosions. The condition, which can lead to memory loss, depression and anxiety, has been designated as one of four "signature injuries" of the Iraq conflict by the US department of defence, which is introducing a large-scale screening programme for troops returning from the frontline.
Defence officials were reluctant to extrapolate directly from the US experience, arguing that the science is still inconclusive and that the US and UK experience in Iraq and Afghanistan has been different. But the Guardian has learned that the government has put in place a series of measures - including a comprehensive screening process - to deal with what could be a 20-fold increase in troops with mTBI. If the most alarming US predictions are accurate, as many as 20,000 UK troops could be at risk.
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