FORT LEONARD WOOD, Mo. (June 12, 2014) -- Fort Leonard Wood's first Traumatic Brain Injury Symposium, held Friday, spanned from telling attendees what TBI is to how technology plays a role in learning how to avoid them.

Six leading Army TBI specialists took turns sharing their information and studies. Each session was followed by a question-and-answer period.

The subject matter experts discussed their specialty work in ongoing Army studies and efforts; Army assessment methods, approach and treatment; helmet technology to prevent and detect head trauma; and impairment study data associated with measured blasts.

More than 750 of the installation's military and civilian workforce, Family members and retirees attended the TBI symposium held at Nutter Field House.

Maj. Gen. Leslie Smith, Maneuver Support Center of Excellence and Fort Leonard Wood commanding general, said the symposium was not solely about the Army.

"We are not here to just talk about the U.S. Army. We are here to talk about the Army, Navy, Air Force and Marines," Smith said.

He asked randomly selected attendees why they came to the symposium.

"I just filled (received for training) yesterday with 207 Soldiers. We are here today because, not only in the Army, but our Soldiers could have received TBIs in high school sports. As a first sergeant of a basic training unit, I am here to learn the symptoms of a TBI, so I can get my Soldiers the proper medical attention," said 1st Sgt. Malia Nemetz, Company A, 787th MP Bn.

In 2013, the Department of Defense recorded 26,561 TBI cases, according to Stephanie Panker, Rehabilitation and Reintegration Division, Office of the Army Surgeon General, acting Army TBI Program director.

Of those, 13,257 were mild; 1,010 were moderate, and 175 were severe.

A TBI is caused by a bump, blow or jolt to the head or a penetrating head injury that disrupts the normal function of the brain.

The severity of a TBI may range from a mild concussion -- a brief change in mental status or consciousness, to severe -- an extended period of unconsciousness or amnesia after the injury.

Donald Lee, Soldier Protective and Individual Equipment Natick Soldier Research, Development and Engineer Center team leader, brought examples of some headgear system prototypes being developed.

"We want to protect you. We are always dancing on that fine line between mission performance on the battlefield and how well we can protect you," Lee said. "We provide U.S. Soldiers and Marines with the best equipment that we can."

Lee stressed the importance of using all of the padding issued with the existing helmets.

"That headgear system is a protection system. If you take out or move even one pad in the helmet you might as well take them all out. It is that serious," Lee said. "Don't replace them with pads you can buy at (military surplus stores). They may feel more comfortable, but they aren't designed for the headgear."

Capt. Matthew LoPresti, Center for Military Psychiatry and Neuroscience, Water Reed Army Institute of Research, research psychologist, presented his Experienced Breacher Injury Study.

"The breacher community came to us and said we should take a look at their study," LoPresti said. "These are individuals who are repeatedly exposed to blasts that they actually set off as part of their jobs."

By placing pressure sensors in helmets, the researchers are able to monitor blast overpressure exposure levels.

LoPresti said he is still looking for experienced breachers and control participants with operational experience to study. LoPresti can be contacted at or 301.319.9765.

Also discussed was a system used by the Department of Kinesiology at Georgia Southern University. It is called the Helmet Impact Telemetry System.

The data from the system helps researchers analyze individuals with single and cumulative impacts in order to measure posture, gait and motor impairment.

The presenters spent the afternoon visiting high-impact training areas here as they continued the TBI discussion.