TBI and the Professional Soldier Athlete: Where are We Now? How Far Have We Come?
March 5, 2013
On October 18, 1984, Congress passed a one-time joint resolution declaring October 1984 as "National Head Injury Awareness Month" and called on the President to issue a proclamation in observance of the month. President Ronald Reagan signed "Proclamation 5262- National Head Injury Awareness Month, 1984" on October 18, 1984.
Nearly 30 years later, Army Medicine is leading the way in early recognition and treatment of traumatic brain injuries through advanced research and innovation. Through public and private partnerships, Army Medicine is expanding it's capacity to increase awareness of Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI) among Army leaders, Soldiers, Family members, Army Civilians and the American public; provide education on brain injury prevention, symptoms, diagnosis and treatment; and reduce the stigma for persons who seek care.
Today, Army Medicine is supporting the initiative for a 2013 presidential proclamation designating March 14, 2013 as Military Traumatic Brain Injury Awareness Day. Army Medicine is committed to providing responsive, reliable, relevant, and quality healthcare for Soldiers, Family members and other beneficiaries with brain injuries through the provision of evidence-based care from the point of injury through rehabilitation and reintegration. Army Medicine incorporates state of the art science and technology to standardize the evaluation and treatment of brain injuries.
Army Medicine continues to educate Army Leaders, Soldiers, Family members and Civilians on the signs, symptoms, prevention methods, and available TBI education resources. Personnel are encouraged to seek care anytime they think they may have sustained a mild TBI (concussion) or other brain injury.
A key advancement in recent history is the Army's adoption of an "Educate, Train, Treat and Track" strategy in late 2009 and implementation of mild TBI/concussion protocols in June 2010.
Supportive measures such as Directive-Type Memorandum 09-033, for instance, stipulates that Soldiers have a minimum of 24 hours of downtime and get a medical clearance before returning to duty following a blast or vehicle incident. Additionally, providers receive extensive educational initiatives resulting in increased detection and initiation of early treatment, both of which are critical to maximizing the recovery of those with brain injuries.
However, problems persist with the stigma of brain injury. Army Medicine is working to reduce the stigma for Army personnel who seek a diagnosis or treatment for concussions or other possible brain injuries.
Army Medicine is now collaborating and leveraging its partnerships with key DoD and civilian organizations to improve its ability to diagnose, treat and care for those affected by TBI. Recently, Army Chief of Staff Gen. Ray Odierno and National Football League (NFL) Commissioner Roger Goodell met at the U.S. Military Academy to discuss TBI and sign a letter of agreement to continue working together to combat TBI. Improving awareness of TBI and advancing research are key initiatives of the partnership. The NFL and Army partnership works to break down the barriers to seeking help. NFL and Army proponents seek a cultural shift where professional athletes and Soldiers are no longer reluctant to ask for help.
Maj. Sarah Goldman, program director of Army Traumatic Brain Injury at the Office of the Surgeon General, Rehabilitation and Reintegration Division, emphasized that seeking help more often than not does not take a Soldier "out of the fight," she said to Army.mil reporter David Vergun. She said more than 13,000 service members sustained some form of concussion since 2010 and 95 percent were returned to duty.
Advancements in brain injury awareness, treatment, and care has not gone unnoticed. The proposed 2013 presidential proclamation acknowledges TBI as "a serious health risk for all service members, whether they are active duty, in the National Guard or in the Reserves, are training at a stateside base, riding a motorcycle, mountain climbing or playing sports." It further indicates the increased risk for sustaining traumatic brain injuries in both deployed and non-deployed settings due to the nature of military training and lifestyle.
Once passed, Military Traumatic Brain Injury Awareness Day will recognize the impact of traumatic brain injury (TBI) as American service members continue to engage in training, operations, and deployment in more than 130 countries at more than 800 installations around the world to protect the security of the nation.
The full article by David Vergun titled NFL, Army Partner to Combat TBI was published on August 31, 2012, at army.mil and may be accessed at http://www.army.mil/article/86544/NFL__Army_both_work_to_combat_traumatic_brain_injury/