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 concern 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.
LACK OF TREATMENT FOR SOLDIERS WITH BRAIN TRAUMA
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.
MILITARY RECOGNIZES SOLDIERS WHO SUFFER TRAUMATIC BRAIN INJURIES
Interestingly, 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.