Paediatrics Publications

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

Document Type

Article

Publication Date

12-3-2020

Journal

Frontiers in Neurology

Volume

11

URL with Digital Object Identifier

10.3389/fneur.2020.588531

Abstract

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, we 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. Using a cross-sectional design, we compared the neuropsychological and neurocognitive profiles of breaching instructors and range staff to sex- and age-matched Canadian Armed Forces (CAF) controls. 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). Next, using a multivariate approach, we explored the impact of other possible sources of injury, including concussion and prior war-zone deployment on the same outcomes. 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). Our 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. We 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.

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