Traumatic brain injury is the signature wound of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, but this blast injury often goes undetected.
ABC News was given an exclusive first look at how the military is trying to change that, by measuring the power of explosions on test dummies that wear special helmets packed with sensors.
"We're experimenting now with helmet devices that will measure the blast, or measure the velocity of a soldier's head as it moves ... The soldier will go back to a base, and the information can be actually downloaded onto a computer, so we can measure what the soldier's been exposed to," said Gen. George Casey Jr., the one-time commanding general in Iraq, and now the Army's chief of staff.
According to Casey, if one of these sensors makes a determination that a soldier has, in fact, got a certain level of traumatic brain injury, the soldier may be treated in Iraq, or returned to the United States for treatment.
"Depending on the severity of the injury, he or she will go to the medical facility, the doctor will screen them and make a determination from there," he explained.
To develop this new testing method, the U.S. military went to a very different kind of battleground — the gridiron.
Just like blasts on the battlefield, hard hits on the football field also cause controversy and concern.
At Virginia Tech, each player now wears a helmet with sensors.
"We have these sensors on the helmet, picking up the force of the blow, so we can see where most of the blows are occurring," said Tom Goodwin, a Virginia Tech engineer.
The university is sharing the information with the military. The Virginia Tech tests, combined with data from the dummy testing, makes military officials confident they will recognize brain injuries sooner.
Tomorrow, the U.S. Army will hold a roundtable at the Pentagon to its medical department's task force recommendations on researching, diagnosing, treating and preventing traumatic brain injury. Starting this spring, troops heading to Iraq and Afghanistan will wear the new helmets.
The goal — to determine just how much is too much on the playing field and the battlefield.