A Navy SEAL was convinced exposure to blasts damaged his brain, so he donated it to science to prove it

Navy SEAL Donates Brain to Science to Confirm Blast Damage Theory

A year has passed since the Pentagon’s Inspector General highlighted a significant issue: the Defense Department’s inconsistent approach in identifying and managing service members with traumatic brain injuries. This revelation has sparked a renewed focus on how these injuries are handled.

Frank Larkin, a former Navy SEAL, has personally felt the impact of this issue. His son’s struggle and eventual death underscored the lack of progress in addressing traumatic brain injuries, despite over two decades of continuous conflict. Larkin finds the situation wholly unacceptable.

The symptoms of a traumatic brain injury can vary widely, from persistent headaches and memory problems to more severe issues like chronic depression and aggression. While extreme cases leading to violence are rare, they represent the potential consequences of untreated injuries.

Ryan Larkin, Frank’s son, displayed many of these symptoms. His father noticed uncharacteristic changes in his behavior, including increased anxiety and a short temper. Despite seeking help, Ryan found that the focus was often on psychiatric diagnoses, overlooking the possibility of a traumatic brain injury.

The challenge in diagnosing these injuries lies in the current limitations of medical technology. As Frank Larkin pointed out, definitive diagnosis often comes too late, only being possible after death. The absence of reliable imaging tools to detect conditions like CTE in living patients remains a significant hurdle.

However, there are steps that can be taken to improve the situation. Advocates suggest that keeping detailed exposure logs, even for non-combat situations, could be a valuable tool in understanding and mitigating the risks of brain injuries.

Jon Retzer, a veteran who now works with the advocacy group DAV, emphasizes the importance of documenting exposure to blasts, regardless of the service member’s role. He shares insights from his experience, highlighting the risks present even in training scenarios, such as grenade instruction.

The issue of traumatic brain injuries in the military is far from resolved. With over 492,000 cases reported between 2000 and 2023, the true number is likely higher, considering unreported or undiagnosed cases. Frank Larkin fears that the consequences of these injuries will continue to affect veterans and their families for years to come.

For those in crisis, help is available. The Suicide and Crisis Lifeline can be reached by calling 988, offering support for anyone in need.