ABERDEEN PROVING GROUND, Md. (Feb. 18, 2015) – Throughout the year, we designate specific months to remind us of varying topics that are important to our well-being and/or culture. Often times we forget or overlook the significance of these awareness months due to their repetitious nature.
March is intended to remind us of the serious impact of Traumatic Brain Injuries, or TBI, throughout our population. You may ask yourself, “Why is this important to me?”
The Center for Disease Control and Prevention, also known as CDC, reports that approximately 2.5 million emergency room visits, hospitalizations, or deaths were associated with a singular TBI or a combination of a TBI and additional sources of injury.
Traumatic Brain Injuries in itself are responsible for an estimated 50,000 deaths per year. The Defense and Veterans Brain Injury Center, or DVBIC, tracks the total number of Service members throughout the Department of Defense whom have been diagnosed with a TBI. Since 2000, over 313,000 Service members have been diagnosed with a TBI. These statistical numbers reflect the relevance of TBI. But why should we be concerned about a TBI?
Traumatic Brain Injury-associated costs within the United States are estimated at a staggering $56 billion annually. The DoD spends an estimated $1.1 billion dollars annually on TBI education and treatment. There are more than five million Americans living with a TBI that has resulted in a permanent need for assistance in daily functioning.
These TBI survivors are left with severe behavioral, cognitive, and communicative impairments. TBIs pose a significant public health problem especially for children aged 5 years and younger, male adolescents and young adults ages 15 through 24, and the elderly who are 75 years or older. This form on injury is the most common cause of death and acquired disability among children and adolescents in the United States.
Dr. Carolyn Caldwell, a neuropsychologist assigned to Kirk U.S. Army Health Clinic, is far too familiar with the effects that TBI has on an individual and their loved ones. On a daily basis she treats the survivors of these traumatic injuries and the aftermath it creates within their occupational, social, family, and interpersonal environment. She has published multiple peer-reviewed articles on the subject.
Caldwell said the mechanism of injury in a mild TBI, the most common severity type, may be different. For example, a Service member might be involved in an improvised explosive device, or IED, blast, an adolescent might take a hard hit in a football game, or an elderly person might experience a fall, but the impact on the individual is similar.
The nerves or neurons in our brain can be compared to silly putty. They are very elastic and stretch easily; however, if they are stretched too far, they can break. When neurons are stretched too far, the normal chemical and electrical functions of the brain are disrupted. This disruption can cause an individual to experience physical cognitive and emotional symptoms.
For example, following a mild TBI, it is common for individuals to experience headache, sleep disturbance, difficulty with balance, reduced attention/concentration, reduced memory ability, irritability, and/or mood swings. Regardless of age or type of injury, there is one common treatment for everyone following TBI, physical and cognitive REST! With adequate rest, the brain will recover its normal chemical and electrical balance. Most individuals will recover from a mild injury within days to a few weeks.
“The nerves or neurons in our brain can be compared to silly putty. They are very elastic and stretch easily; however, if they are stretched too far, they can break,” Caldwell said.
Traumatic brain injuries poses a serious health concern not only for us as individuals, but our loved ones as well. As a community we must remain cognizant of the seriousness of a TBI. It is within this awareness that we find a greater chance of preventing these injuries.
If you are in need of resources for education, treatment, and prevention please visit the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s website at http://www.cdc.gov/TraumaticBrainInjury/index.html and the Defense and Veterans Brain Injury Center’s website at http://dvbic.dcoe.mil/resources.