Air Force

March 21, 2014

Proper protection; no brainer

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Senior Airman Jason Couillard
99th Air Base Wing Public Affairs

U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Jason Couillard U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Jason Couillard
NELLIS AIR FORCE BASE, Nev. — Everyone experiences a hit to their head at some point in their life. After the event, some may be fine, but others might have sustained a traumatic brain injury.

A traumatic brain injury is a blow, jolt, or bump to the head or a penetrating head injury that disrupts the normal function of the brain.

According to the Brain Injury Association of America, about 75 percent of TBIs that occur are concussions or other forms of mild traumatic brain injury.

The cost of brain injuries is not cheap. Average hospital based acute rehab is about $8,000 a day, post-acute residential rehab is about $850 to $2,500 per day, and four hours of rehab for a day treatment program is approximately $600 to $1,000 without room and board.

“Since anyone can sustain a brain injury at any time, it is important for everyone to have access to comprehensive rehabilitation and ongoing disease management. Doing so eases medical complications, permanent disability, family dysfunction, job loss, homelessness, impoverishment, medical indigence, suicide and involvement with the criminal or juvenile justice system,” said Dr. Brent Masel, Brain Injury Association of America medical director. “Access to early, comprehensive treatment for brain injury also alleviates the burden of long term care that is transferred to tax payers at the federal, state and local levels.”

When a brain injury occurs, a lot of normal day to day functions may become challenging. If the neurons and nerve tracts are affected, they can be unable or have difficulty carrying the messages that tell the brain what to do. This type of injury can change the way the person thinks, acts, feels and moves the body. Brain injuries can also change the internal functions in the body, such as blood pressure, bowel and bladder control and body temperature. The changes can be permanent or temporary. These injuries can also cause impairment or a complete inability to perform a function.

Although TBIs can happen anywhere, to anyone, at any time, there are some preventative measures that people can take to reduce the risk of being a victim.

Some preventative measures include wearing a seatbelt while in the car, avoid driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs and wearing a helmet during potentially hazardous activities like bike riding, skateboarding, motorcycle riding, horseback riding, or participating in any other types of sports.

“Even with helmet use, it may or may not be possible to prevent a mild TBI. If someone experiences a traumatic brain injury and then has another before healing from the initial injury, there may be a poorer outcome. Symptoms may be more severe and take longer to improve. This means that after a TBI, a service member is required to have at least 24 hours of rest after the injury prior to returning to duty,” said Capt. (Dr.) Wesley Reynolds, 99th Medical Operations Squadron neurologist. “Service members should only return to duty when their primary care manager says that it is appropriate!”

Some symptoms of a traumatic brain injury are: a loss of consciousness for a few seconds to a few minutes. Some people may not lose consciousness but be somewhat dazed, confused, or disoriented after the traumatic hit to the head.

“If you experience a new head injury with loss of consciousness or confusion, then go to the nearest emergency room to get checked out. If you have experienced a head injury in the past and suspect that your symptoms may be related to a TBI, the best thing to do is contact your PCM,” said Reynolds.

Some people may need to work with their commanders and first sergeants, as rest and time may be needed to get back to normal. Mild TBI’s usually get better in time but require a gradual return to normal activities. Some patients may need more time than others.

“Service members are at an increased risk for sustaining a TBI compared to their civilian peers due to several reasons such as the following: The most common demographic group at the greatest risk for TBI’s is young men between the ages of 18 to 24, which is a large portion of the military; many operational and training activities, which are routine in the military, are physically demanding and even potentially dangerous; and military service members are increasingly deployed to areas where they are at risk for experiencing blast exposures from improvised explosive devices, suicide bombers, land mines, mortar rounds and rocket propelled grenades. These and other combat related activities put our military service members at an increased risk for sustaining a TBI,” said Reynolds.

However, over eighty percent of TBI’s actually occur in the non-deployed environments such as car accidents, falls, sports activities, military training and high risk activities.

Although TBI’s are not always preventable, learning how to properly protect yourself, and properly handle an injury if it occurs is something that every Airman should keep in mind.




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