Traumatic brain injury (TBI) is a significant health issue which affects service members and veterans during times of both peace and war. The high rate of TBI and blast-related concussion events resulting from current combat operations directly impacts the health and safety of individual service members and subsequently the level of unit readiness and troop retention. The impacts of TBI are felt within each branch of the service.
Frequently Asked Questions
How many U.S. soldiers have a Traumatic Brain Injury?
The Pentagon says about 115,000 soldiers have mTBI, while the RAND Corporation study Invisible Wounds of War suggests the much higher number of 400,000 total TBIs, the majority of which are mild.
In general, active duty and reserve service members are at increased risk for sustaining a TBI compared to their civilian peers. This is a result of several factors, including the specific demographics of the military; in general, young men between the ages of 18 to 24 are at greatest risk for TBI. Many operational and training activities, which are routine in the military, are physically demanding and even potentially dangerous. Military service members are increasingly deployed to areas where they are at risk for experiencing blast exposures from improvised explosive devices (IEDs), suicide bombers, land mines, mortar rounds and rocket-propelled grenades. These and other combat related activities put our military service members at increased risk for sustaining a TBI.
How is a Traumatic Brain Injury diagnosed?
Diagnosing TBI can be hard. Symptoms of moderate to severe TBI can be obvious — extended loss of consciousness and severe neurological disorders — but diagnosing a mild TBI is trickier, especially during combat. Often soldiers don’t even realize they have a mild brain injury after a blast.
Another consideration in diagnosing TBI is its comorbidity with Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder. Many soldiers may also be suffering from PTSD, a debilitating psychological wound that can be caused by the intense terror of being involved in a roadside blast or other combat related event.
How is a Traumatic Brain Injury treated?
The exact course of treatment depends on the severity of the injury. Regular and consistent cognitive rehabilitation therapy — techniques to compensate for decreases in mental function — has been shown to be beneficial in post-injury recovery. However, this type of treatment is rarely available through military medical care, leading many soldiers to seek this rehabilitative treatment at private facilities.
BIANC Resource Book & Regional Offices
The BIANC Resource Book is intended to be a guide for individuals with brain injury, family members of brain injury survivors, and professionals who serve them. It provides information and referrals for services related to brain injury.
Click here to see a listing of our regional offices. If you have questions or concerns, please get in touch with us through the office closest to you so that we can assist you.
Defense and Veterans Brain Injury Center
The Defense and Veterans Brain Injury Center (DVBIC) is a part of the U.S. military health system and serves as the traumatic brain injury (TBI) operational component of the Defense Centers of Excellence for Psychological Health and Traumatic Brain Injury (DCoE).
A Head for the Future
This DVBIC initiative provides resources to help the military community prevent, recognize, and recover from traumatic brain injury.
This link provides information and resources related to the diagnosis and treatment of TBI for active service members and veterans.