Soldiers, leaders and community members learned about effects of TBI from experts Apr. 13 at Fort Leonard Wood.

The annual Traumatic Brain Injury Symposium focused on acute symptoms of TBI and featured topics ranging from prevention to treatment with primary focus on headaches this year.

Dr. Bassam Hadi, a neurosurgeon from St. Anthony's Neurosurgery Specialists and Phelps County Regional Medical Center, who spoke on the overview of traumatic brain injuries.

Dr. Mignon Makos, neurologist for Phelps County Regional Medical Center, spoke about treatment for lasting consequence of injury and the pressure Service Members and physicians feel to return to the fight too early knowing the potential consequences if done too soon.

Dr. Eric Hart, lead neuropsychologist from University of Missouri Columbia, discussed the neurocognitive effects of trauma on memory, concentration and processing speed.

The final presentation was by Dr. Don James, chairman of the Acute Effects of Neurotrauma Consortium, and Kent Thomas, Director of Leonard Wood Institute. They spoke on the unique partnership Fort Leonard Wood has with researchers within Missouri and surrounding areas to improve the functioning and capabilities of our Soldiers, Sailors, Airmen, and Marines both on this post and throughout the military.

But the background leading up to this annual training event is the big news.

Relationships

Relationships are essential to recognizing and evaluating concussed Soldiers, said John Ingersoll, GLWACH's chief of Clinical Operations, who is also GLWACH's AENC Liaison Officer.

Four years ago, TBI experts from across the country were invited to tour the installation's unique training environment and share their particular area of TBI expertise with Soldiers, leaders and the community during the first symposium.

Scientists, physicians, and other TBI professionals have toured Fort Leonard Wood's unique training areas each year to experience firsthand what Soldiers go through. They climb into bunkers, experience simulated vehicle rollovers, and feel the effects of throwing live hand grenades.

And they talk to each other about their current research projects, such as the placement of various sensors on Soldiers in different training situations to measure the effects of explosive impact on the human body.

Research

Possibly the most significant development for TBI research here was the official establishment of a regional group of researchers known as the Acute Effects of Neurotrauma Consortium, Ingersoll said.

"The mission of the AENC is to better understand TBI through research and to move forward with better treatment and prevention techniques in the future," Ingersoll said.

The AENC is centered around a new framework for facilitating new TBI research requests at Fort Leonard Wood, known as the Cooperative Research and Development Agreement.

"The fact that researchers can knock on the door is a big deal," Ingersoll said. "We have created a mechanism to allow high value TBI research to occur on Fort Leonard Wood."

Research done on Fort Leonard Wood has already impacted the safety of Soldiers.

"We have changed policy across the Army with research done here at Fort Leonard Wood," said GLWACH's TBI Program Director, Maj. Michelle Whitlock, referring to Army-wide changes made in Army Engineer explosives safety training.

Creating a culture

It's all about creating a culture responsive to TBI, Ingersoll said.

"We want to create a culture where leaders, Soldiers and battle buddies are able to recognize that a TBI may have occurred and then proactively engage," Ingersoll said.

"Recognizing Traumatic Brain Injury is about relationships, knowing when TBIs happen, and shaping an environment that is supportive to those who encounter TBI," Ingersoll said.

The hope is to create a culture that will mitigate effects of TBI and keep our Soldiers in the fight. And the annual symposium, the AENC, and the CRADA work together to help scientists, physicians, Soldiers and leaders understand, prevent, report, and treat TBI.

(Editor's note: John Brooks is the Marketing Specialist at General Leonard Wood Army Community Hospital)