By On August 4th, 2011

TBI a ‘Leading Injury’ Among U.S. Soldiers

Service members and their families have a lot to juggle without having to worry about the challenges they might face when a soldier suffers from a head injury during service. Unfortunately, traumatic brain injuries (TBIs) are a growing Military Service Man Salutes Injured War Veteransconcern for members of the military and their loved ones due to their quick rise in number among military personnel.

According to the U.S. GAO, TBI “has emerged as a leading injury among service members” serving in Iraq and Afghanistan. Though it’s hard to know the total number of soldiers currently dealing with TBIs, the RAND Corporation’s report, Invisible Wounds of War, suggests that approximately 320,000 soldiers have experienced a TBI during deployment since October 2001. Breaking that number down, it’s possible that as many as 40,000 U.S. service members have sustained severe brain injuries while deployed. Apparently, improvised explosive devices (IEDs), which military members are commonly exposed to during combat, are largely to blame for the increase in TBIs.


The RAND Corporation’s report also reveals that, sadly, the absence of care for these service members is pretty high—57% of those who may have experienced a TBI were never evaluated by a physician for a brain injury. However, the large jump in the number of brain-injured military personnel has prompted the military and several other organizations to take steps to identify and address the growing concerns service members and their families have about TBIs. Hopefully, this will help lead to improved care for brain-injured military members and veterans.


Purple Heart and Bronze War MedalsInterestingly, a recent story from the ArmyTimes reports that service members who experience brain injuries during combat might be eligible to receive a Purple Heart at some point in the near future. According to the article, head injuries used to be considered much less serious “if a soldier or Marine didn’t black out as a result of the trauma he experienced.” Fortunately, that point of view seems to be changing, and the Pentagon has even ramped up its efforts to identify head injuries sooner—black out or not—in hopes of reducing the long-term impact brain injuries can have on individuals and their families.

It’s encouraging to see that the military and other organizations recognize how difficult dealing with a head injury can be. What’s even more encouraging is that they continue to take steps to better diagnose, treat, and honor the growing number of men and women who sustain TBIs while serving our country. Though this may be an incredibly difficult time if you are the patient or loved one of a military member diagnosed with a TBI, the good news is that you are not without support. In addition to looking online, try talking to your health care team to see if they can help you figure out what additional support resources are available to you during the recovery process.

7 Responses

  1. Kim West says:

    Wow! This is very important information that needs to be shared with healthcare professionals and communities. As a RN who had the honor of working with Vets following 20-25 year gap post deployment from Vietnam, I often wondered how much of the illness they experienced (PTSD, Depression, drug abuse, etc) had a coorelation with a head injury. Sadly when they returned back to the states, these individuals were not offered assistance and often carried much shame. I hope for our Vets returning from Iraq and Afghanistan are offered appropriate evaluations and their complaints listened to and taken seriously.

    The sheer numbers are daunting yet we owe it to those who served to assure them their sacrifices will not go unnoticed and support exists during an often transition back home.
    Kim West, BSRN

    • NRI says:

      We could not agree with you more about how important it is to make sure this information is shared with healthcare professionals, military communities and the general population. In fact, we are blogging about this topic in hopes of doing our part to create discussion and awareness. We appreciate you reading and commenting on our blog and sharing this information.

  2. Clare says:

    As a survivor of TBI, my heart goes out to soldiers who gave up a part of ther lives with good intention to protect the country we love. I understand challenges they may be or will be experiencing.

    I still stuggle with challenges however however, my life is much richer because of these experiences. Fortunately, pain is gone other than pain thinking about other survivors especially soldiers.My life changed dramatically but I discovering strengths I never knew I had

    Learning to speak again though Toastmasters International, many of my speeches are about Trauma to Triumph. My first of speech was entitled “How to Turn a Disability into an Ability and new a New Career”.

    Now, years later, as a member of ProTrack, the training program of National Speakers Association, San Francisco, as part of motivational keynotes and workshops, I started handing out greeting cards for people to say “Thank You” but I don’t know where to send them.

    My plan is to include information from the military about TBI and how they can connect a soldier or a unit. Also, who would I contact to offer motivational speeches to goups in the San Francisco Bay Area?

    TBI is a real problem especially as a hidden disability. I really want to help but need guidance in this endeavor. The survivors need help from someone who understands what TBVI and i certainkly do.

  3. Mary says:

    as a mother of a TBI daughter (gun Shot) and grandson TBI (car accident) I know all to well the struggles patients and families go through. Its the part of their life that you don’t see that they live with daily. If it were an ovious physical dissability people are more open to except it. I’m so glad to see this article. I know there is more to be done for our TBI soldiers than is being done. Mary

  4. Catherine Hamel says:

    I’ve felt concern for our veterans coming home with TBI’s for a long, long time now. Being a TBI survivor myself, and having had to relearn almost everything since the injury, I just wish that there were some way that we survivors could in some manner connect with these newly brain trauma vets.

    Such a hopeless and terrified feeling to be told by a nurse that I had brain damage – two months after being airlifted to the hospital – but having no short term memory ability at that time. Upon hearing ‘brain damage’ all I could think about was that I was ‘retarded’; from that point on I cried daily. Thank God I had fabulous physicians who guided me to the best providers post my hospital rehabilitation and I’ve come a long way in my healing.

    I often think back that if a TBI survivor had come to my hospital bedside to demonstrate to me that she or he had a brain injury, but had climbed back to being very able-minded again, I would have been given the greatest gift of all at that time: HOPE!

    That’s why we survivors need to find a way to get out there to emotionally support our veterans coming home with the same type of injuries. We are ALL ‘soldiers’ when struggling to recover from such traumas and seriously, only the fittest really do survive.

    Blessings to all,


    • M.J. Clausen says:


      Thank you for sharing your courageous personal story with us and the readers of NeuroNotes. Survivors like you provide us all with hope!

      Take care,


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