In 2007, the Department of Defense mandated that diagnosing traumatic brain injuries needed to change from being symptom driven, to incident driven, explained Dr. Scott Livingston, the director of education at the Defense and Veterans Brain Injury Center.
Livingston spoke with Task & Purpose about the different types of traumatic brain injuries, their symptoms, and how diagnosing these injuries has changed.
Prior to 2007, a service member had to self-report a traumatic brain injury, said Livingston. This meant that troops had to know what the symptoms were and be able to recognize whether or not they were suffering from one or more of them.
Now the reporting is incident driven, which means that if an individual is in a vehicle collision, rollover accident, or suffers a blast injury, he or she is required to get checked out by a health care provider.
When it comes to traumatic brain injuries, Livingston explained that they fall into three categories: mild, moderate, and severe.
“Traumatic brain injury is a blow or jolt to the head that typically causes alteration or a change in the function of the brain, and that’s what we describe as a mild traumatic brain injury or TBI,” said Livingston. “Or it can be a more significant injury where that blow or jolt to the head causes an actual structural injury to the brain, and those are the more moderate to severe forms of traumatic brain injuries.”
Traumatic brain injuries run along “a continuum of injury from mild to moderate to severe,” said Livingston, who noted that a mild TBI is commonly called a concussion.
Common causes and symptoms of traumatic brain injury.
While blast exposure from improvised explosive devices, indirect or direct fire, can result in traumatic brain injuries, they are not the most common cause of TBIs among troops.
“Most people think, ‘Well, service members in combat, most of their injuries are going to occur from blast exposure or gunshot wounds,’ when in reality most TBIs among active-duty service members are not diagnosed from a combat environment, and most of their causes are motor vehicle collisions, falls, and sports-related activity,” explained Livingston.
The symptoms of traumatic brain injuries vary as well, said Livingston, who broke the injuries and their symptoms down into two groups: mild and moderate to severe.
Read about how mild, moderate, and severe TBIs differ here.
This was originally published on Task & Purpose written by James Clark