US Department of Defense
Advancing Blast Injury Research to Protect and Heal Those Who Serve

Cumulative Blast Exposure Estimate Model for Special Operations Forces Combat Soldiers

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In a recent study, researchers established blast exposure estimates during routine occupation training to advance occupational blast exposure monitoring and neurological deficits reported by Special Operations Forces members.

Occupational blast exposure is a risk factor for neurodegenerative disease and dementia for Special Operations Forces (SOF) Service members later in life. While the effects of occupational blast exposures on long-term neurological health outcomes remain mostly unknown, the clinical implications are diverse in pathology, symptomology, and recovery. In 2018, Congress passed the National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2018, Section 734, requiring a longitudinal study of blast pressure exposure in active duty Service members. In this study, researchers sought to establish a preliminary cumulative blast exposure (CBE) model that measures routine close quarter battle (CQB) blast exposures.

The researchers reviewed CQB training across U.S. Army and U.S. Navy Special Operations Forces (SOF) and confirmed that the four most common explosive implements used for interior breaching and CQB were 1) flashbang, 2) single strand roll-up interior charge, 3) 300 grain explosive cutting tape charge, and 4) Jelly charge. They measured the burden associated with the primary blast generated from explosives deployed by SOF Service members during routine CQB training and found that multiple uses of explosives during a typical CQB training day may contribute to substantial acute and chronic CBE estimates and early onset neurodegenerative deficits. Researchers found that the accumulation of exposures generated from routine CQB training raised more concern than individual exposures; even the repeated use of the smallest charges can have a considerable additive effect.

Typically, Service members with subconcussive exposure have limited or no medical documentation, despite the Department of Defense's requirement to include a blast exposure history in Service member medical records. Considering blast as an occupational exposure hazard, and not simply an acute injury, will allow scientists to monitor blast-related outcomes. Passive collection of occupational training exposures may be an innovative and realistically achievable method to document exposures experienced by individual SOF Service members. Tracking this information will allow Service members and Veterans to receive the short- and long-term medical care they need and assist them with medical claims and disability benefits upon separation from the military.


McEvoy, C. B., Crabtree, A., Powell, J. R., Meabon, J. S., & Mihalik, J. P. (2022). Cumulative blast exposure estimate model for special operations forces combat soldiers. Journal of Neurotrauma, 39, 1-8.


The authors have no direct funding sources to declare for this study.

Last modified: 07-Oct-2022