While wars tend to carry a signature weapon, traumatic brain injury has often been called the signature wound of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. Modern combat medicine and forward surgical teams have saved an amount of lives unthinkable even 60 years ago. But that yields complications: troops have survived wounds and injuries that would have killed in the past. Veterans are returning home with traumatic brain injury (TBI) in unprecedented numbers. But for the first time, a VA-led study has linked brain injuries from combat to a degenerative brain disease most commonly found in athletes.

From The New York Times:

The paper provides the strongest evidence yet that some and perhaps many combat veterans with invisible brain injuries caused by explosions are at risk of developing long-term neurological disease — a finding that, if confirmed, would have profound implications for military policy, veterans programs and future research.

That last point is significant. Brain injuries are notoriously difficult to detect and treat, so these findings may help researchers unravel the complexity of the injuries that has frustrated a generation of medical professionals.

Stars & Stripes details how uniquely damaging chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE) can be:

Unlike the temporary cognitive and memory loss associated with some traumatic brain injuries, CTE manifests itself in the form of psychiatric symptoms, learning deficits, dementia and progressive brain cell death.

The study’s findings won’t answer all the questions we have about TBI, and it might even lead to some new ones. But given the severity and complexity of brain injuries, the more we know about them, the better we can treat Veterans who got danger close. If you sustained a head injury (like a concussion), check out our TBI resource page for symptoms, screening information, and recovery and rehabilitation options.

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6 Comments

  1. Kenneth R May 30, 2012 at 12:45 pm

    Recently, I have found a large number of current (within the last three years) and older veterans (within the last 15 years) are applying for un-employability. I have seen some veterans that should never work again because they were injured then there are a group of veteran that apply simply because they can’t are won’t find a job so the VA pays them as if they are 100% service connected. I think the VA should get out of this business and list a veteran as being service connected based on his or her physical or mental condition not on his or her ability to find employment. I think the VA should encourage every veteran to work. The VA should encourage Veterans to own a business veteran even if it’s a small gift shop. Veterans who work do live longer and they have a self-worth that will help them move forward in life. The VA medical Centers have great Doctors but if a Veterans is listed as un-employability what reason does the veteran have for showing improvement during his course of treatment. IF a VA Doctor develops a treatment that works to cure PTSD or improves TBI Veterans but the Data is muddy by Veterans that lie to protect un-employability then every veteran loses both now and in the future. I am and know a large number of 100% service connected veteran who work every day we are employed and we want to stay employability. VA get out of the un-employability business and into the treatment, cure and Veterans back to work business.

  2. Robert Espinoza May 23, 2012 at 6:50 pm

    I received head trauma in Vietnam I was unconscious for 18 hrs. I know that I have TBI now in later life my memory isn’t as sharp I get headaches, quick to anger, not as steady on my feet and loss of control of my eyes I can’t follow a finger with my eyes. I definitely believe all of this was caused from my head injury.

  3. Grace May 19, 2012 at 5:03 pm

    And what exactly does the VA do with honorably discharged soldiers with PTSD and TBI who wander off the face of the earth and their friends and family cannot locate them?? Not much from what I’ve experienced.

  4. HOOT May 18, 2012 at 2:52 pm

    All these guys should get a medal along with P.T.D.S. I KNOW GUYS little scares and recived the P.H.

  5. Bob Cass May 18, 2012 at 10:44 am

    So then…How and what does it mean to all of those warriors who just folded up and shook profusely as they were called cowards on the battlefields??? What does it mean to those who became dishonorably discharged??? Those who really suffered from this brain injury but no one knew it even existed. The least we can do is send home apologies. Just my opinion.

  6. Dr. John N. Hatfield, Ph.D. May 18, 2012 at 10:22 am

    This research by the VA doesn’t surprise me as we have had clients with TBI & PTSD show the same cognitive deficits as these veterans, including 3 vets who worked on the CSI-Teletherapy program in their homes via the internet. All three were able to rewire their brains through neurogenesis as they interacted with the game-like assigned cognitive tasks. The new neuropathways that are generated are permanent and over time can form a Cognitive Reserve that can last a lifetime. Take a look at the following video link for an overview that was on ABC in Oklahoma City as one of the 6 prototypes in “modern healing”. http://www.modernhealing.tv/video/ok2/cognitive.wmv It was narrated by Dr. Shackelford, MD, and is only 2.5 min. If interested, I can send a free DVD with unscripted interviews. I can be contacted at 405-706-6950 (cell) or e-mail: teletherapy@gmail.com

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