March Is Brain Injury Awareness Month

March 8, 2009

Traumatic Brain Injury is something that I’ve written about often here. With the amount of deployments that our servicemembers are being tasked with, Traumatic Brain Injury has quickly become one of the signature wounds of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. Therefore, it’s important that our Troops, and their families are aware of the causes, the signs and symptoms, the treatments and the fact that most who suffer from this type of injury, will recover without any lasting side effects.

The month of March is designated each year as Brain Injury Awareness Month. It’s a month each year that professionals and those who have suffered from brain injuries, work to educate the public on what a brain injury is, the importance of quick treatment and the fact that most people who suffer from a brain injury of some sort, will fully recover.

The Defense Centers of Excellence for Psychological Health and Traumatic Brain Injury, is actively taking part in educating the public, as Mild Traumatic Brain Injury or what is commonly known as a concussion, affects from 10-20 percent of servicemembers who are returning from combat in Iraq or Afghanistan. According to the center’s director, Brig. General (Dr) Loree Sutton, more than 90 percent of servicemembers who suffer from a TBI have concussions and they recover from those injuries quickly.1

“I can’t stress this enough,” Sutton said. “The vast majority of people with TBI will get better. Certainly, the moderate or more severe cases will take longer to recover, but it is also important to recognize this is not an individual concern alone. That’s where family comes in, the unit comes in and the community comes in.”2

Mild Traumatic Brain Injuries are caused by a blow to the head. They are characterized by disorientation, headaches, dizziness, difficulty with balance, ringing in the ears, blurred vision and memory gaps. The Army and other branches of the military screen for concussions or mild TBIs with a tool that’s called the Military Acute Concussion Evaluation. Recently, that tool has been supported by the Institute of Medicine. It was first released for use in August 2006. Another tool that the military uses, according to Brig. General Sutton is the Automated Neurophychological Assessment Metric (ANAM), which is used to set the baseline for a Soldier’s reaction time, short-term memory and other cognitive skills. Care providers are able to use the tool as another critical piece of information when evaluating and managing the care of injured servicemembers.

“We’ve directed a lot of research and time and energy to identifying the knowledge gaps for the entire range of traumatic brain injury, which spans from concussion or mild TBI, all the way through to severe TBI,” Sutton said. “The good news is that for 80-85 percent of people that experience TBI, it is a concussion, and most folks will recover quickly - particularly if they pay attention early on and get the rest they need. Early intervention is important.”3

The Defense and Veterans Brain Injury Center which was established after the first Gulf War, reports that around 33 percent of patients who needed medical evaluation for battle-related injuries at Walter Reed in 2008 had TBI. That gives some indication as to the reason TBI is considered one of the signature wounds of these wars. The Center’s sites have seen more than 9,000 people who suffer from TBI. Brig. General Sutton stressed the fact that it’s very important for Soldier who think that they may have suffered from an injury that might lead to TBI to report these injuries to ensure that they receive the appropriate care and have the best chance for recovery. I concur and can’t stress the importance of receiving care as quickly as possible. My youngest son, at the age of 6, ran out in front of a car on his way home from school one day and was hit by the vehicle. He suffered from a concussion or mild TBI. To this day, he doesn’t remember what led up to his injury. He recovered quickly due to receiving immediate treatment and care for his injuries. I credit the quick action of bystanders in calling the paramedics and their quick action in getting him to the hospital for treatment, in ensuring that his recovery from the injury was without complications.

“Our troops are very motivated and want to stay in the fight.” Sutton said. “But our message is if you hurt your arm or you hurt your leg, you’d get it taken care of. Well the same thing applies to one’s brain. So asking for help is an act of courage and strength, and we have a great system set up both within the Defense and Veterans Affairs departments and in partnership with our civilian colleagues.”4

The sooner a Soldier gets help for a TBI, the sooner they will be able to recover and rejoin the fight. As Brig. General Sutton said, often are troops are motivated to stay in the fight and not leave their brothers and sisters doing the mission without them. However, without treatment, conditions may worsen and their return to the fight could be even longer. With the creation of the National Intrepid Center of Excellence for Psychological Health and Traumatic Brain Injury, the Defense and Veterans Brain Injury Center and their partnership with experts around the country and the world, the Department of Defense is making it clear that treating these injuries is a priority and they are ensuring that our Troops who suffer from these injuries receive the very best care in the world.

To find out more about Traumatic Brain Injuries in all forms, it’s diagnosis and treatment, there are many resources available for our readers. Each of the sites I’ve provided the links for below should offer plenty of information for those interested in reading more about Traumatic Brain Injuries, it’s diagnosis and treatment.

Defense Centers of Excellence for Psychological Health and Traumatic Brain Injury

The Defense and Veterans Brain Injury Center

The Brain Injury Association of America

Institute of Medicine-Health of Veterans and Deployed Forces

  1. []
  2. []
  3. []
  4. []


Got something to say?