A new study found that veterans who have experienced bomb blasts in war show similar brain damage to football players.
Researchers at Boston University have said that exposure to even a single bomb blast like an IED could cause degenerative brain disease and long-term cognitive problems.
It is estimated that about 200,000 US troops have tested positive for traumatic brain injuries, reported CBS News.
The New York Times reported that researchers looked at the brains of mice who were exposed to similar blasts.
It was found that the mice showed signs of the brain wasting disease chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE).
The mice also had broken axons, blood vessels and inflammation in the brain.
In addition to the mice experiments, the researchers did autopsies, reported Fox News, on four young veterans and found early signs of CTE.
Compared with the brains of athletes exposed to hard tackles, scientists found similar trauma in soldiers.
In particular, both the athletes and soldiers who had received violent shocks had a buildup of a brain protein called "tau."
Those who had not been tackled hard or hit by a bomb blast did not show the same signs.
The new research may help change the way returning soldiers are treated and whether they receive disability pensions.
“Not long ago, people said N.F.L. players with behavior problems were just having problems adjusting to retirement,” lead author Dr. Lee E. Goldstein of Boston University’s School of Medicine told the New York Times.
“Now it’s more or less settled that there is a disease associated with their problems. But we do not have that consensus in the military world yet.”
The findings were published in the journal Science Translational Medicine.