March is Brain Injury Awareness Month and March 14 was the U.S. Army's Military Traumatic Brain Injury Awareness Day. Officials from the Defense and Veterans Brain Injury Center spoke with reporters on the topic of concussions. A concussion is the most common brain injury and is classified as a mild traumatic brain injury (mTBI).
Speaking with reporters were Col. Jamie Grimes, MD, National Director of the Defense and Veterans Brain Injury Center (DVBIC) and Ms. Katherine Helmick, Deputy Director, DVBIC. Col. Grimes said that the latest data shows 266,810 traumatic brain injuries (TBI) identified in the U.S. military from 200 through 2012. Nearly 220,000 of those injuries, 82.4 percent, were classified as mild, or a concussion.
A concussion or mTBI is defined by the military as:
A confused or disoriented state which lasts less than 24 hours; loss of consciousness for up to 30 minutes; memory loss lasting less than 24 hours; and structural brain imaging (MRI or CT scan) yielding normal results.
Grimes told reporters that the majority of these concussions were not combat related. Training accidents, motor vehicle accidents and falls were among the causes she provided for non-combat mTBI.
The military is currently deploying the second generation of helmets designed to measure the forces that a soldier experiences in combat that can result in TBI. The data is being collected but Grimes states that it is too premature to draw any conclusions. There is little existing physical data on combat TBI but a great deal of clinical data. Understanding the forces that a soldier experiences is important for both treatment and for future equipment design.
Miss Helmick talked about treatment of a concussion. Rest, both physical and mental, is vital for the recovery of a patient. If a patient has not recovered from an mTBI, they are two to three times more likely to suffer another concussion. The Center provides a number of resources for patients and families dealing with mTBI.