By Claudia Mendoza, Speech Language Pathologist, Fort Bliss Warrior Transition Battalion
March is brain injury awareness month, a perfect time for the William Beaumont Army Medical Center Traumatic Brain Injury Clinic to reach out to the Fort Bliss and El Paso community and promote awareness of signs, symptoms and treatment of brain injury, as well as the importance of preventing brain injury.
Please join the WBAMC TBI Clinic Open House to learn more about brain injury awareness and what the clinic can do to help active duty service members. The Open House will be held on March 29, at 1 p.m., inside the Soldier Family Medical Center.
A traumatic brain injury (TBI) is defined as a disruption in the normal function of the brain caused by an external force and are categorized as mild, moderate, sever and penetrating (open-head injury). Most brain injuries are mild and are also referred to as a concussion, which may require only a few weeks of symptom management. A more prolonged and intensive rehabilitation program may be required for individuals with a moderate to severe brain injury or penetrating TBI, which can cause behavioral, functional, or psychological changes.
The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) estimates that each year approximately 1.7 million civilians in the United States sustain a TBI caused by falls, being struck by or against an object, and motor vehicle crashes. After a TBI, a person may experience symptoms which may include memory or thinking problems, difficulty concentrating, impaired balance and/or coordination, headache, dizziness, irritability, trouble sleeping, or sensitivity to light and/or noise.
According to the Defense and Veterans Brain Injury Center, 383,947 service members received a TBI diagnosis from 2000 until the first quarter of 2018. Service members are at risk for combat-related blast injuries, during operations and training activities, and during usual day-to-day life activities. In addition to TBI, service members returning from combat may also suffer from post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). TBI and PTSD may coexist and have overlapping symptoms such as changes with memory and concentration, depression, anxiety, and fatigue.
Awareness and access to programs and resources are important and early treatment is recommended. The TBI Clinic is a resource within Fort Bliss that provides out-patient rehabilitation services to active duty service members who have sustained a TBI or acquired brain injury (ABI). Causes of ABIs include stroke, infectious disease, tumor, and oxygen deprivation (anoxia). A team of physicians, a behavioral health psychologist, speech-language pathologist, physical therapists, and occupational therapists serve as the interdisciplinary team to developed personalized treatment for the individual.
WBAMC TBI Clinic collaborated with the WBAMC Pain Management Clinic to provide a holistic approach to treating patients thru the TBI Intensive Outpatient Program (IOP). The patients participated in cognitive and exercise groups, cooking groups, vision therapy, art therapy and behavioral health, as well as acupuncture, and nutrition classes.
If patients can't make the Open House, family members can be proactive in protecting themselves and each other against TBIs. Always wear a helmet and appropriate gear when riding motorcycles, bicycles, skateboards, hover boards or off-road vehicles. In a normal vehicle the best way to prevent a TBI is to wear your seatbelt and utilize the appropriate car seats for children. You can also prevent falls for the elderly by making living areas safe.