Traumatic Brain Injury: The Signature Wound of the Global War on Terror

A traumatic brain injury (TBI) is defined as a physical injury to the brain, usually by sudden force. According to the Center for Brain Health at The University of Texas at Dallas, the most common cause of TBI in the military is explosions. In the cases of Operation Enduring Freedom and Operation Iraqi Freedom, most of the explosions were made by improvised explosive devices (IEDs).

Military.com reports that effects of brain injuries can be immediate or appear over time. They can be hard to detect because of the way the brain handles head trauma. More severe cases of TBI can result in chronic pain, behavioral problems, depression and seizures.

Treatment of TBI can be frustrating, for little can be done to rehabilitate the initial brain damage. Mostly, it consists of limiting the damage as much as possible and stabilizing the patient. The financial and emotional costs of rehab can, not surprisingly, be high and draining.

But more evidence-based research into these injuries is yielding some interesting results. A recent post on VA.gov states that as many as 20% of Iraq-Afghanistan veterans have suffered some form of TBI – perhaps a mild affliction, as the most common symptom they display is loss of prospective memory, the kind that reminds one to do something. The same research suggests that an important aid for a veteran with such memory loss is the calendar app on a smartphone. Push notifications from the phone can serve as useful reminders to these injured vets. Most importantly, says VA.gov, there is no social stigma associated with using a smartphone to remember things.

Veterans with TBI require all the attention, patience, and emotional support they can get. Retraining the mind is difficult, but not impossible. If you are interested in getting such, support, call USMC veteran Cedric Jones at the Center for Brain Health at The University of Texas at Dallas, at (972) 883-3317.