Brain Injury Awareness Month helps bring awareness, keeps topic in forefront
Did you know that 1.7 million individuals in the United States will suffer a traumatic brain injury each year according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention? This number includes approximately 262,065 U.S. military servicemembers. Not all cases of TBI are combat related, as reported by the Defense and Veterans Brian Injury Center. This type of injury happens in an instant, and causes 52,000 deaths and a lifetime of physical, cognitive and behavioral challenges to 3.1 million individuals every year.
In March, the Weed Army Community Hospital, here, joins other military installations, independent organizations, self-advocates, families and volunteers across the nation to observe Brain Injury Awareness Month. Brain Injury Awareness Month honors the millions of individuals confronted with challenges resulting from TBI, and honors those who have succumbed to this condition. The campaign also aims to increase awareness and decrease stigma about brain injuries.
The effects of TBI are often injuries we cannot see and are difficult to detect because there are no outward signs. Anyone can sustain a TBI at any time; therefore, it is important to understand prevention, signs and symptoms after an injury has occurred. Servicemembers are at a higher risk for TBI than the general population because of the nature of our military occupation. Servicemembers must know what to do when symptoms are apparent in a battle buddy in order to seek treatment from available medical resources.
So what is traumatic brain injury? A TBI is a disruption of brain function resulting from an external force, like a blow or jolt to the head for example. Traumatic brain injuries are characterized as mild, moderate and severe. Symptoms may range from a confused and disoriented state for a few seconds to minutes, to loss of consciousness for an extended duration. Mild traumatic brain injuries, also known as concussions, are the most common. Concussions are not confined to combat or blast exposures. They may also be sustained during common activities such as football, hockey, boxing, skiing, biking and vehicle crashes or collisions.
Symptoms may include confusion, dizziness, headaches, nausea, ringing in the ears, poor concentration, memory problems, difficulty sleeping, irritability and visual disturbances. Some individuals experience symptoms lasting from a few seconds to minutes while others may have long-lasting or permanent deficits. It is important to understand that it takes time for the brain to heal from these injuries. It may take longer with repeated injuries, which impacts military personnel because of combat exposure to repeat injuries. With appropriate observation and treatment, however, research has shown that 90 percent of TBI patients experience a full recovery.
Brain injuries should be evaluated by medical personnel as soon as possible. Leaders should encourage servicemembers to seek medical attention, regardless of how mild the injury appears. While early identification and treatment is essential, prevention really is the key: wearing the appropriate protective head gear while participating in sports, recreational activities and combat operations, and; avoiding or reducing high risk activities. Prevention is particularly important for those who have already suffered a previous injury to allow the brain to heal.
The TBI Task Force at Weed Army Community Hospital will be hosting TBI awareness events throughout the month of March. “Bowling for Brain Injuries” is scheduled to occur on March 16 starting at noon. Look for this and other awareness activities on the hospital Web site and on Facebook at www.facebook.com/WeedArmy. Registration forms and flyers will be available at the Mary E. Walker Clinic and Weed Army Community Hospital. Remember to register early for “Bowling for Brain Injuries” to claim your bowling lane. Do not miss out on any of the events in March! For more information, contact Maj. Shirley Daniel, TBI Program manager, Mary E. Walker Clinic at 380-7358. Join us during March and help honor those who suffer from traumatic brain injury.