Nearly 20% of deployed military personnel experience traumatic brain injury (TBI). TBIs are any brain injury caused by an outside force. These injuries can be “closed,” such as from a fall or motor vehicle accident or “open,” like from a gunshot wound.
Traumatic brain injuries range broadly from mild to severe. People with mild TBI (also called concussion) often fully recover within days to weeks, while those with severe TBI may have significant and sometimes permanent impairments. Fortunately, 70 – 90% of all TBIs in military personnel fall within the “mild” range.
Symptoms of Mild TBI
Traumatic brain injury can cause physical, cognitive and emotional difficulties.
Typical symptoms of mild TBI/concussion include:
- Looking and feeling dazed
- Being uncertain of what is happening; feeling confused
- Having difficulty thinking clearly or responding correctly to simple questions
- Being unable to describe events immediately before or after the injury occurred
Complications of Mild TBI
Although most with mild TBIs fully recover within a matter of days, a small percentage have symptoms that persist for months or even years. What causes this? Research shows outside factors may interfere with the brain’s recovery. What begins as a neurologic injury is complicated by other non-neurologic factors, such as chronic pain, side effects of medicines and psychological distress—all of which cause similar symptoms to TBI.
These outside factors are commonly experienced by veterans because in many cases their brain injuries were the result of a blast that also injured other parts of their bodies. In addition to their physical pain, injured veterans also commonly experience posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD), anxiety disorders and depression.
Brain Injury Awareness Month: Not Alone
The Brain Injury Association of America (BIAA) leads the nation in observing March as Brain Injury Awareness Month. They work to build awareness of the condition and support individuals with brain injuries and their families.
Help for Veterans with TBI
Emory Healthcare Veterans Program offers expert and collaborative care to help heal the invisible wounds of war. Our comprehensive approach combines psychiatry, neurology, rehabilitative medicine and family support to help veterans reintegrate and reclaim their lives.
A coordinated treatment plan may include:
- Cognitive rehabilitation
- Education about typical recovery and common barriers
- Management of orthopaedic injuries and chronic pain
- Medication management
- Complementary medicine (yoga, meditation, acupuncture, sleep medicine)