ARLINGTON, VA (March 16, 2015) -- March is National Brain Injury Awareness Month. This has been a hot issue for the Army for years, as Soldiers return from theater with traumatic brain injuries (TBI) resulting from combat. TBIs contribute to a substantial number of deaths and cases of permanent disability every year. In 2010, there were 2.5 million TBI-related emergency room visits, hospitalizations, or deaths. Whether it is a head hitting the windshield during a car accident, an impact from a fall, head injuries received during sports, or trauma from a nearby explosion such as an improvised explosive device (IED); TBI can cause changes in a person's ability to think or control emotions, mobility, or speech, and can also affect sight or hearing. TBI affects both the military and the civilian communities, resulting in numerous studies conducted by both the public and private sectors.
According to the Center for Disease Control, a TBI is caused by a bump, blow or jolt to the head or a penetrating head injury that disrupts the normal function of the brain. The severity of a TBI may range from mild (concussion), which account for approximately 75 percent of TBIs, to severe (i.e. an extended period of unconsciousness or amnesia after the injury, or a penetrating wound). TBI is a leading cause of injury-related death and disability in the United States. The highest rates of TBI occur in children (0-4 years) and older adults (75+), and rates are highest among males in every age group.
The Army has done a great deal of research and sponsored numerous studies to determine the causes, treatments, and methods to prevent TBIs. The incidences of TBI in service members increased as the use of IEDs have become more prevalent on the battlefield. From the calendar year 2000 through the first quarter of 2011, over 200,000 service members had been identified as having sustained a TBI, with nearly 80 percent of these injuries classified as mild, according to the Armed Forces Health Surveillance Center.
In 2012, the Army teamed with the National Football League (NFL) to work towards improved awareness of TBI, and to seek to "integrate the uncompromising devotion to win with a need to address traumatic brain injuries with the necessary care, consideration, and commitment to prevention that these injuries require." The same year, the NFL announced a $30M grant to the National Institutes of Health (NIH) for brain injury research. In late 2014, the NFL awarded the U.S. Army Research Laboratory and six other organizations grants to study TBI prevention. Analyses commissioned by the Army and the NFL include a study that placed special sensors in the helmets of both Soldiers and NFL players to detect a possible concussion following trauma to the head. The NIH, the Center for Disease Control, the Veteran's Administration, among other organizations, have placed a large importance on TBI research, speaking to the high priority of the issue.
The Army Study Program (ASP) has funded multiple studies that seek to gain a better understanding of brain injuries as well as effective treatment of TBI. The Office of the Surgeon General has leveraged ASP funding for several studies on this topic, including a 2012 study designed to gain a more complete evaluation of brain function to allow researchers to better characterize the abnormalities in blast related traumatic brain injury, and to study potential markers for predicting recovery in the patient population.
While TBI remains a partial mystery, a multitude of military, government, and private industry assets have, and continue to perform studies and research in an effort to tackle this issue. As more information is learned and effective treatments are discovered, the Army remains optimistic that TBI is a high occurrence injury that we will be able to drastically reduce in the future. If you or a loved one has experienced a traumatic brain injury, please visit: http://www.army.mil/tbi/?from=features for a full list of resources.
Also, visit the Army Study Program Management Office on Facebook at http://www.facebook.com/armystudies to learn more about the program and the great work the Army is doing for Soldiers and Families.