Project Enlist: CTE in the military.

4 mins read

An issue that pervades popular culture behind a shrouded veil is leaving our military veterans with long term damage. CTE in the military is echoed in sports, martial arts and other activities, but there’s a group in Canada spearheading the charge against it. The Mayo clinic, down in the states, explains CTE better than my bro-science ever will;

Chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE) is a brain disorder likely caused by repeated head injuries. It causes the death of nerve cells in the brain, known as degeneration. CTE gets worse over time. The only way to definitively diagnosis CTE is after death during an autopsy of the brain.

The first time I would hear about CTE was through my truck’s speakers on the Joe Rogan Podcast. It’s a subject he’s picked up a few times now in talking about the link between combat sports and traumatic brain injury. That’s one of the big reasons I practice Jiu Jitsu as my martial art of choice – it has limited opportunities for significant head strikes.

Project Enlist: CTE in the CAF

Project Enlist Canada is a sub-organization of Concussion Legacy Foundation Canada. Their mission is three fold. They aim to accelerate critical research on TBI, CTE and the link they have to PTSD through the donation and study of veteran brains. They are looking to educate veterans and military members on the prevalence of concussions, TBI and CTE associated with service. Finally, they’re trying to provide support to those affected by brain injury through the Operation Brain Health Support Line by helping connect people with practitioners who understand brain injury, education on brain healthy habits, and peer support/mentoring.

CTE in the military is leaving current members and future recruits without the data needed to adapt to the risks involved with service. One of the big obstacles faced by Project Enlist is the general feelings of reluctance that people have with regards to any organ donor program. That’s the purpose of this article – to provide some airtime for this uncomfortable conversation.

Go read up on Project Enlist to learn more.

Project Enlist Canada has been busy advocating for understanding CTE in the military. When I interviewed Michael Terry, the Outreach Coordinator for the organization, I asked about the organization’s next steps;

Project Enlist Canada has come a long way in just 5 years. We have just realized the creation of a brain bank in Canada (previously all brain donations were sent to the Boston University Brain Bank) in partnership with the Canadian Concussion Centre. We have partnered with Dr Neil Vasdev from the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health Brain Imaging Centre to further study in diagnosing CTE in the living brain (currently CTE can only be diagnosed through autopsy). We also plan to continue developing and refining Operation Brain Health to deliver support veterans and military members affected by brain injury all across Canada.

Michael Terry, Outreach Coordinator, Project Enlist Canada.

Overall, 65% of Canada’s Armed Forces have been deployed. On these missions, we ask our military members to serve in capacities that put them at immediate risk. That’s part of the job. When they come home, it’s on us to make sure the long-term risks of those deployments are understood and where possible, prevented. That’s exactly what Project Enlist Canada is trying to do.

To learn more about Project Enlist Canada, Click here.

Bill Dungey is a volunteer firefighter in Ontario, Canada. He is focused on fitness, mindset development and finding training opportunities to help the fire service make things better.

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