US Forces are responding to the effects of blast exposure following the Iranian missile strikes on al-Asad air base in Iraq in early January 2020. In the weeks after the strike, delayed mTBI symptoms began manifesting among those exposed to the overpressure despite initial reports of no injuries. Of the 2,000 troops stationed at the base during the attack, more than 100 have been diagnosed with traumatic brain injury (TBI) and suffer from its effects.
TBI is one of the most common injuries combatants in Afghanistan and Iraq have sustained over the last two decades. According to Reuters and Pentagon data, more than 400,000 troops have been diagnosed with TBI since 2000, but TBI presents challenges to diagnosis and treatment compared to overt combat injuries. Often, these challenges result slower reporting and treatment, or unreported TBI.
Al-Asad and TBI
At least eleven missiles hit the al-Asad base on January 8th . Numbers of affected continued to rise after the attack, which is generally attributed to TBI’s lack of external injury indicators and difficulty with self-reporting from troops.