Brain Injury Awareness Month puts the spotlight on TBIs

| March 9, 2012 | 0 Comments
Images from an MRI, like the one pictured above, are used to identify areas of damage to the brain.

Images from an MRI, like the one pictured above, are used to identify areas of damage to the brain. (Courtesy Photo)

Keith Hauret
U.S. Army Public Health Command

ABERDEEN PROVING GROUND, Md. — March is Brain Injury Awareness Month and provides an opportune time to learn more about traumatic brain injuries, or TBIs.

Active duty service members are at increased risk for a TBI compared to their civilian peers. According to the Defense and Veterans Brain Injury Center, 29,255 service members were diagnosed with a TBI in 2009 and 30,380 were diagnosed in 2010.

TBIs also occur among family members and retirees of all ages.

More than 1.7 million Americans are treated each year for a TBI, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. This statistic includes 1.4 million people who are treated in emergency rooms, 275,000 who are hospitalized, and 52,000 who die from the injury.

The CDC estimates the yearly cost for TBIs to be $76 billion, which includes costs for medical treatment and rehabilitation, lost wages, decreased productivity at work and impact on family members.

Many Americans sustain a TBI each year and are not treated in emergency rooms, making it difficult to know how many TBIs actually occur. Also, many individuals with TBIs are treated in outpatient clinics, but many never seek any medical attention.

The American College of Sports Medicine estimated in a December team physician consensus statement that there are 3.8 million mild TBIs (concussions) each year, just from participation in sports and recreational activities.

TBIs are caused when external forces are applied to the head and brain. These forces can result from a blow or jolt to the head, an object penetrating the head/brain, “whiplash” (as in a car crash) or pressure caused by a blast or explosion.

TBIs range from mild, a brief change in mental status or consciousness, to severe, an extended period of unconsciousness or amnesia after the injury.

With deployments in Iraq and Afghanistan, the leading causes of TBI for the U.S. civilian population are different compared to the leading causes for military service members.

For the civilian population, falls (35 percent), motor vehicle crashes (17 percent), and striking the head by or against an object (17 percent) are the leading causes of TBI, according to the CDC.

By comparison, a report by the U.S. Army Public Health Command says 69 percent of the TBIs that required deployed Soldiers to be hospitalized in Iraq and Afghanistan in the years 2004–2009 were from battle-related causes, such as bullets, fragments and blasts.

Leading non-battle causes for TBIs included motor vehicle crashes (12 percent), falls (6 percent) and sports (2 percent).

Service members and their families should be aware of TBI and its symptoms. Sometimes, symptoms will not be noticed for days, weeks or even months after the injury occurs. This fact is especially true with mild TBI.

TBI symptoms can also be hard to distinguish from other common health problems, such as post-traumatic stress disorder or depression.

Symptoms of TBI include the following:

  • Loss of consciousness
  • Headaches
  • Dizziness
  • Excessive fatigue
  • Trouble concentrating
  • Forgetting things (memory problems)
  • Irritability
  • Balance problems
  • Vision changes
  • Sleep disturbance


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What causes traumatic brain injury?

A traumatic brain injury, or TBI, is a disruption of function in the brain resulting from a blow or jolt to the head or a penetrating head injury. Causes of traumatic brain injuries may include falls, motor vehicle crashes, assaults and combat events, such as blasts.

Medical providers classify TBIs as mild, moderate, severe or penetrating, primarily based on initial symptoms.

Most TBIs are mild and are more commonly known as concussions. Receiving prompt medical care is essential to maximizing recovery.

The Army has invested more than $530 million to improving access to care, quality of care, research, and screening and surveillance of Soldiers with TBIs.

Army TBI enterprise management provides a standardized, comprehensive program that delivers a continuum of integrated care from point-of-injury to return to duty or transition from active duty.

In late 2009, the Army implemented a new mTBI/concussive injury management strategy: Educate, Train, Treat, and Track, and in June 2010, a Department of Defense Directive Type Memorandum outlined new guidelines for TBI care in the deployed setting.

The DTM directs that any deployed Soldier who is involved in a potentially concussive event, such as being within close proximity to a blast, must undergo a medical evaluation and have a minimum rest period.

Medical and rehabilitation providers deployed far forward on the battlefield promptly treat Soldiers with concussion, refer them to higher levels of care, if needed, and conduct medical evaluations before returning these Soldiers back to duty.

According to the DOD’s Military Health System, more than 132,000 Soldiers have sustained a TBI since January 2000. TBIs not only impact mission integrity and force health protection, but they also affect family members.

The Army remains committed to providing world-class healthcare for its wounded Soldiers and their families.

(Editor’s Note: Compiled from Army news releases.)­­


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