Education key to identifying TBI

| March 4, 2011 | 0 Comments

Lt. Gen. Eric Schoomaker
Commander, U.S. Army Medical Command

FORT SAM HOUSTON, Texas — March is National Brain Injury Awareness Month, and we will engage in an Armywide effort to continue our intensive campaign to educate Soldiers and families about the diagnosis, treatment and care programs related to brain injury, especially mild traumatic brain injuries, or TBI, more commonly called concussions.

National Brain Injury Awareness Month is a national initiative not specific to the Department of Defense, as concussions are not limited to military activities and are far more common among civilians than among Soldiers.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports that an average of 1.7 million Americans suffer TBIs from a blow or jolt to the head annually.

The severity of injuries range from a mild concussion to severe TBIs, with an extended period of unconsciousness or amnesia after the injury or a penetrating injury that disrupts the function of the brain.

Most concussions are mild, and if treated properly, result in full recovery without long-term physical or mental effects.

DOD has focused hard on both the prevention of concussions, the prompt recognition or diagnosis of them and proper treatment, especially those related to combat.

Education is the key to identifying and treating concussions. To identify the signs and symptoms of potential brain injuries, employ HEADS:

•Headaches or vomiting;

•Ears ringing;

•Amnesia, altered consciousness or loss of consciousness;

•Double vision or dizziness; and

•Something is wrong, not quite right.

The Army follows an event-driven protocol to systematically identify, treat and protect Soldiers with potential brain injuries.

U.S. Central Command implemented a theater policy mandating medical examinations for all Soldiers involved in events associated with TBI. Examples of these events include blast exposures, vehicle accidents and rollovers, and direct blows to the head.

During these examinations, clinicians assess the injury, provide treatment guidance, refer specialty care and monitor recovery.

DOD also implemented a theater tracking system, requiring deployed units to report all significant actions to document and track these events. This information is collected from the battlefield, compiled into the warrior’s record and will eventually be stored in a centralized database and reporting system designed to accomplish the following:

•Identify Soldiers who were exposed to TBI events;

•Provide situational awareness of an individual’s history of risk exposures to medical providers;

•Provide visibility to leaders on units’ exposure to TBI events;

•Provide documentation to support line-of-duty investigations for Reserve and National Guard Soldiers; and

•Provide information to the medical community to better understand blast and traumatic events.

TBI prevention measures, injury identification and effective treatment starts at home, on sports fields and in proper management of falls and accidents. It extends to battlefields wherever our warriors face the dangers of blast injuries.

(Editor’s Note: Schoomaker is the Army’s Surgeon General.)


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Category: Army News Service, Community, Health

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