No direct impact caused Paul McQuigg’s brain injury in Iraq three years ago. And no wound from the incident visibly explains why Mr. McQuigg, now an office manager at a California Marine base, can get lost in his own neighborhood or arrive at the grocery store having forgotten why he left home. But his blast injury — concussive brain trauma caused by an explosion’s invisible force waves — is no less real to him than a missing limb is to other veterans. Just how real could become clearer after he dies, when doctors slice up his brain to examine any damage. Mr. McQuigg, 32, is one of 20 active and retired members of the military who recently agreed to donate their brain tissue upon death so that the effects of blast injuries — which, unlike most concussions, do not involve any direct contact with the head — can be better understood and treated. The research will be conducted by the Sports Legacy Institute, a nonprofit organization based in Waltham, Mass., and by the Boston University Center for the Study of Traumatic Encephalopathy, whose recent examination of the brains of deceased football players has found damage linked to cognitive decline and depression.
By ALAN SCHWARZ
Published: June 22, 2009