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The Army will outfit a brigade of soldiers in Afghanistan in the next few weeks with gauges worn on their bodies that can alert medics to an explosion’s severity and perhaps proof of possible brain injury, according to a report in Tuesday’s USA Today.

The data might shed light on how blast exposures damage the brain, even when a soldier appears only dazed, researchers told the paper. An estimated 300,000 troops have suffered mild brain injuries, mostly from blast, in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Sensors will measure blast effects from buried bombs known as improvised explosive devices that have killed nearly 3,000 troops in Iraq and Afghanistan and wounded about 30,000.

The newest sensor, developed by the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency for nearly $1 million, is about the size of the time piece on a wristwatch and weighs less than an ounce, USA Today reported.

Soldiers will wear three — on the breast and shoulder of their body armor, and on a helmet strap against the back of their necks.

“It’s an environmental sensor … like a dive watch,” Col. Geoffrey Ling, a DARPA scientist, told the paper.

In addition to recording blast force and over-pressure, data that can be downloaded via a USB port, the device gives an immediate read of bomb severity, said Jeffrey Rogers, a DARPA physicist and one of the inventors.

After an explosion goes off near a soldier, a medic inserts a stylus or pen tip into a recessed hole on the device. A light flashes green, yellow or red, indicating whether the blast was strong enough to warrant further medical attention.

“We’re really worried about the guy who’s not complaining,” Ling told the paper.


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