Brain Injury Awareness Month = facts about head trauma

From Liisa, SMSgt Temple’s wife: While Rex’s is out on a mission, I’m posting this piece in honor of Brain Injury Awareness Month.

LACKLAND AIR FORCE BASE, Texas (AFNS) — Traumatic brain injury, or TBI, has been labeled a “signature injury” of the current conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan. It also occurs in non-combat settings in association with motor vehicle accidents, sports injuries, assaults and falls. In 2009, Department of Defense officials reported 20,199 cases of TBI among military service members.

March is Brain Injury Awareness Month and representatives at Defense and Veterans Brain Injury Center locations will be hosting various activities promoting the Brain Injury Association of America’s current campaign, “A concussion is a brain injury. Get the facts.”

According to DOD guidelines, traumatic brain injury is defined as “a blow or jolt to the head or a penetrating head injury that disrupts the function of the brain.” Not all blows or jolts to the head result in a TBI. The severity of such an injury may range from “mild,” characterized by a brief change in mental status or consciousness, to “severe,” involving an extended period of unconsciousness or amnesia after the injury. More significant TBI can result in short- or long-term problems with independent function. The vast majority of TBIs fall into the mild category also known as “concussion.”

A concussion is caused by a bump, blow or jolt to the head, or from a blow to the body that causes the head to move rapidly back and forth. Most concussions involve a brief period of altered consciousness, characterized as being dazed or confused without a loss of consciousness. Some common signs and symptoms of concussion include headaches, dizziness, memory loss, concentration difficulties, irritability, fatigue and anxiety or depression. These symptoms may be noticeable immediately or within the first few days after the injury and normally resolve rapidly.

Research on TBI in the civilian population suggests that approximately 85 percent of individuals experience resolution of post-concussive symptoms within three to six months after a single concussion.

There are many reasons why symptoms persist. The course of recovery is individual and varies, depending on the cause of injury as well as the environment or setting in which the injury occurred. If symptoms persist or interfere with normal activities, follow-up with a physician is important.

Additional information about traumatic brain injury and Brain Injury Awareness Month can be found at Defense and Veterans Brain Injury Center or at Brain Injury Association of America.

(Story by Ken Breaux, Defense and Veterans Brain Injury Center; Maren Cullen contributed to this article)

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