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'Critical' Shortage Of Army Neurologists For Troops

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Brain injuryThe Army is facing a "critical" shortage of neurologists, partly because of recent policy changes designed to improve diagnosis and treatment of mild traumatic brain injuries, according to a new military medical memorandum.

The policies, issued last June, require soldiers who have suffered three or more mild traumatic brain injuries in a year to receive a comprehensive evaluation by a neurologist or similarly qualified doctor. The military also set up a clinic in Afghanistan last year specifically to treat traumatic brain injury and mandated rest periods for soldiers exposed to blasts.

The new initiatives have "increased dramatically" the need for neurologists on the battlefield, according to the memo, which was issued in March and obtained recently by ProPublica and NPR.

"The shortage is far more acute than they want to admit," said one Army doctor, who did not want to be identified for fear of damaging his career. "This is an ideal doctrine which was promulgated but not fulfilled due to a lack of resources."

Army officials have long complained about a lack of neurologists, neuropsychologists and other medical professionals needed to diagnose and treat mild traumatic brain injuries, also known as concussions.

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