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What is TBI?

TBI Infographic - veterans with tbi - traumatic brain injury

Traumatic brain injury (TBI) affects 2.8 million Americans every year. Falls and accidents are the leading causes of TBI-related ER visits among the general population.

TBI is usually caused by a hit, blow, or jolt to the head. Blunt head trauma and blasts caused by improvised explosive devices (IED), and exposure to repeated trauma have turned mild TBI (mTBI) into a signature wound of the most recent generation of veterans. Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) is also considered a signature wound, and its symptoms can overlap with TBI.

The Department of Defense reports 449,000 servicemen and women were diagnosed with some form of TBI between 2000 and 2021. Reporting on military TBI is done quarterly through the TBI Center of Excellence (formerly known as the Defense and Veterans Brain Injury Center or DVBIC).

The TBI Center of Excellence notes that in 80% of cases, the injuries are classified as mild TBI. Most often, mild TBI is diagnosed at home or “at garrison,” at a military base or post, and not during deployment.

A mild TBI might be detected by a battle buddy, unit leader, or family member who notices something has changed.

We asked U.S. Army Medical Corps Col. (Ret.) Sidney Hinds, M.D., now serving as vice president of Brain Health Strategy and Research at Wounded Warrior Project® (WWP), to give us an intro to TBI. Here are five things to know:   

  1. There are three main types of TBI:  Doctors consider the injury mild TBI (mTBI – also known as a concussion) when the person loses consciousness for 30 minutes or less (or doesn’t lose consciousness); moderate if they lose consciousness for more than 30 minutes but wake up within 24 hours; and severe if they lose consciousness 24 hours or longer.
  2. TBI doesn't always cause loss of consciousness. Someone with a mild TBI may not lose consciousness. Sometimes they experience confusion while they stay conscious.
  3. TBI symptoms and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) can overlap. The effects of TBI may impact the way a person reacts to PTSD symptoms. This means treating the person with a comprehensive approach is best.
  4. Even in the military, TBI is not always caused by explosions or blasts. Military training, physical exercise, or engaging in off-duty sports can expose servicemen and women to potential TBI. WWP helps warriors regardless of how they were injured.
  5. All injuries are not the same. This means every TBI must be treated differently. “Most experts will say, ‘if you’ve seen one concussion, you’ve seen one concussion,’” Hinds said. Two people can be involved in the same event but have different symptoms. “If you’ve been in a potentially concussive event, go get evaluated, get it on your medical record.”

Even if time has elapsed since injury, it’s never too late to reach out for help. “You might have been injured while deployed,” Hinds said. “That doesn’t matter. What matters is that you get evaluated. When we consider long-term history, we don’t just ask about one head injury, we ask about a lifetime of injuries to help assess those warriors.”  

From benefits to clinical programs to WWP’s Independence Program for veterans with more severe injuries, reaching out to organizations like Wounded Warrior Project can help veterans receive the benefits they have earned and have access to the best care possible. WWP helps warriors heal from visible and invisible injuries. It also supports veteran families who care for injured post-9/11 veterans regardless of where an injury occurred or when an illness started.

Get connected today or read more about how WWP helps.

Contact: Raquel Rivas – Public Relations, rrivas@woundedwarriorproject.org, 904.426.9783

About Wounded Warrior Project
Since 2003, Wounded Warrior Project® (WWP) has been meeting the growing needs of warriors, their families, and caregivers — helping them achieve their highest ambition. Learn more.

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