Wartime Traumatic Brain Injuries (TBIs)
A long road back
With so many service members affected by traumatic brain injuries, neuropsychologists are ramping up diagnosis and treatment
By Christopher Munsey
Print version: page 34
Traumatic brain injury (TBI) has been called the "signature injury" of the Iraq war.
Most commonly, the injuries are caused by improvised explosive devices, or IEDs, the makeshift bombs insurgents frequently use to attack U.S. forces.
Even if soldiers are not directly hit, the shockwaves of these explosions can violently shake their brains or send shrapnel into their helmets. The result is often an injury that's much like a boxer hit with a knock-out punch.
Thanks to excellent medical care and advanced body armor, service members are surviving injuries that would have killed them in previous wars. But with that survival often comes brain damage, a decrease in cognitive abilities and a lessening of emotional self-regulation.
Psychologists, particularly neuropsychologists, are stepping in to assess the damage, help patients learn new strategies to compensate while their brains recover, and raise public awareness of the increasing number of servicemen and women with TBIs. In fact, 1,977 service members were treated for them at Defense and Veterans Brain Injury Center (DVBIC) sites from January 2003 to February 2007.
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