Mild TBI/Concussion & the Military
Military Service Members are at an increased risk for sustaining a TBI compared to the general population. The most at risk for TBI are men between the ages of 18-24. According to the Traumatic Brain Injury Center of Excellence (TBICoE), between the years 2000-2019, over 400,000 members of U.S. armed forces were diagnosed with a first-time TBI. More than 80% of these first-time injuries are classified as concussions. However, most concussions in the military occur outside of battle and over 30% of military brain injuries are due to motor vehicle accidents. Service Members who are stateside are also at risk for TBI due to regular occupational requirements: training exercises, field operations, convoy operations, physical fitness requirements, etc.
Leading causes of TBI specific to the military include:
- Blasts (from improvised explosive devices, suicide bombers, land mines, mortars and rocket-propelled grenades)
- Motor vehicle crashes
- Hand to hand combat/combat training
- Bullets or shrapnel
- Hard whole-body impacts including parachute landings
- Falls, especially from equipment and/or vehicles
- Sports and Recreation activities
- Boating injuries
- Barotrauma injuries caused by pressure changes, as can occur in divers, or in pilots from quick changes in altitude
- Other occupational duties/Hazards
What is a Blast Injury?
Mild TBI is the signature injury of recent conflicts, and the primary cause in those conflicts is blast injury.
A blast injury is a specific kind of traumatic brain injury that can occur when someone is exposed to an explosive device such as an improvised explosive device (IED). The resulting brain injury tends to be mild in nature, and often called a concussion. A brain injury can occur at each of the following levels:
- First Level: High pressured shock waves that impact brain - the waves cause energy pulses inside the body that result in unnatural brain movement and stretching
- Second Level: Projectiles or shrapnel from an explosion that can hit or penetrate the brain
- Third Level: Hitting the head on the ground or object due to being thrown by the blast wind - this makes the soft brain rattle around in the hard skull
- Fourth Level: Burns, lack of oxygen to the brain, breathing in toxic chemicals
Helpful resources for healthcare providers can be found here: