Health Editor’s Note: Traumatic brain injury (TBI) can change a life in an instant.  While a TBI is an acute injury, it does not resemble having a broken bone, deep laceration, etc. The injury is to the brain, which is a very complicated organ, and results of an injury to the neurons (brain cells) of the brain will affect a personality, ability to function, and basically all aspects of a life. Neurons do not regenerate as do other body tissues thus a recovery from a TBI does not follow the usual healing method. Hey, what can be  more disconcerting that to have a TBI and not realize that you have been injured…that is what can happen to someone with a TBI.

The actual mechanism that causes a TBI is that the brain has hit the inside of the skull and there an be resulting bleeding as blood vessels are abruptly moved and torn, bruising of the brain tissue, destruction of brain tissue.  A blow to one side of the head causes the brain to hit the other side of the skull.  Contra-lateral blows hurt the opposite side of the brain.  

Millions of people suffer injuries to the brain. More than half of these are bad enough for a visit to the hospital with permanent damage or death resulting from a major injury. Military personnel in combat zones are at risk for TBIs from explosions and general physical assaults. Half of all TBIs, whether in the military or civilian, are from motor vehicle accidents. 

 Half of all TBIs are from motor vehicle accidents. Military personnel in combat zones are also at risk. Brain injuries do not heal like other injuries. Recovery is a functional recovery, based on mechanisms that remain uncertain. No two brain injuries are alike and the consequence of two similar injuries may be very different. Symptoms may appear right away or may not be present for days or weeks after the injury….Carol

Promoting Better Understanding, Treatment of Traumatic Brain Injury

By Military Health System Communication Office

Traumatic brain injuries continue to be a top focus in the Defense Health Agency. According to the Defense and Veterans Brain Injury Center, or DVBIC, more than 380,000 service members have been diagnosed with a TBI since 2000. The majority of the incidents have occurred in noncombat events including training accidents, falls, motor vehicle collisions, and sports-related activities.

TBIs are categorized as mild, moderate, severe, or penetrating. They occur when a blow or jolt to the head disrupts normal brain functioning. Mild TBIs or mTBI, also known as concussions, are the most common TBI among military members, DVBIC says. Full recovery is usually expected within days or weeks, but mTBIs can cause cognitive and emotional issues, such as temporary memory gaps, slowed thinking, irritability, and depression.

Further, research has shown that repeated head trauma may increase the risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease and Parkinson’s disease, and also may lead to brain degeneration known as chronic traumatic encephalopathy.

Here’s a look at some activities this year that were related to promoting better understanding and treatment of TBI:

The U.S. Army Medical Research and Materiel Command began limited user testing of a blood test for brain trauma. The Army and the Department of Defense funded the research that led to the development of the test, called a brain trauma indicator. The BTI identifies two brain-specific protein markers that rapidly appear in the blood and are elevated 12 hours after a head injury occurs.

“When these proteins are elevated, there may be blood in the brain,” said Kathy Helmick, DVBIC deputy director. This could be an indication of a more serious brain injury, she said, and would require rapid intervention, such as neurosurgery to remove a blood clot.

The Air Force opened its first Invisible Wounds Center at Eglin Air Force Base, Florida. The facility serves as a regional treatment center for TBI as well as associated pain conditions and psychological injuries. With a team of 18 specialties under one roof, the center combines conventional and complementary therapies to provide treatment that’s individually tailored to each patient as well as holistic and integrated.

“The center is ready to treat retirees, Guard, Reserve, and active duty members from our sister services who carry the weight of invisible wounds,” said Lt. Gen. Dorothy Hogg, the Air Force surgeon general. “Our goal is to eliminate barriers to care. We want to treat our service members with dignity through every phase of their recovery.”

During this year’s Military Health System Research Symposium, a researcher at Indiana University was recognized for his work advancing the biological understanding of head impacts that don’t produce clinical symptoms of mTBI. Keisuke Kawata, Ph.D., of the Department of Kinesiology, School of Public Health, Indiana University, received the first-place award in the Young Investigator Competition for his study, “Association of Increased Serum S100B Levels with High School Football Subconcussive Head Impacts.”


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