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Think Ahead: Observing Brain Injury Awareness Month

March is Brain Injury Awareness Month. 'THINK AHEAD: Be Safe. Know the Signs, and Get Help.' March is Brain Injury Awareness Month. 'THINK AHEAD: Be Safe. Know the Signs, and Get Help.'

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HONOLULU —Brain Injury Awareness Month is throughout the month of March and is designed to draw awareness to the impact traumatic brain injuries (TBI) have on warfighters.

"People sustain a TBI in combat, motor vehicle accidents, during sports and other recreational activities and through other daily events where you can fall or hit your head," said Gregory Johnson, Medical Director at the Tripler Army Medical Center Brain Injury Center, in Hawaii. "Since 2000, more than 350,000 service members were diagnosed with TBI." 

Mild TBI, also known as a concussion, is common in the military in both garrison and theater. According to Johnson, most concussions occur in garrison. "Routine military activities in garrison and off-duty leisure activities such as riding motorcycles, parachuting, climbing mountains, and playing contact sports are all very popular among our military members, all of which can increase the risk of TBI," said Johnson. Blast injuries from devices such as improvised explosive devices produce a high number of mild TBIs in combat.

The Brain Injury Center at TAMC typically provides services for active duty members of all military branches as well as their dependents, and typically sees 300-400 new patients each year mostly from a concussion or mild TBI. 

The center guides the patients soon after the time of their injury through recovery by providing therapies such as headache treatments, balance rehabilitation, hearing evaluation, memory training, visual therapies and behavioral health therapies to mitigate the common symptoms which may occur after a TBI.

"As the largest military hospital in the Pacific, the Tripler Brain Injury Center also cares for people from Japan, Korea, American Samoa, Guam and other locations in the Pacific realm," said Johnson. "We also provide consultation with providers in the more remote locations where they do not have teams of specialists." 

Just like in the sports world, the military recognized a need to treat their service members with TBI. In response to this need, Congress established the Defense and Veterans Brain Injury Center (DVBIC) in 1992 to serve active-duty military, their beneficiaries and veterans with TBI. DVIBC is committed to raising awareness of TBI and has established a theme to help draw awareness to Brain Injury Awareness Month 2017 called 'THINK AHEAD: Be Safe. Know the Signs, and Get Help.'

BE SAFE - You have the power to prevent mild TBIs by making smart decisions in your day-to-day life - so always think ahead. Whatever you're doing, think about how you can be safe to avoid a TBI (for example, always wear a helmet when riding a bicycle or motorcycle).

KNOW THE SIGNS - It's your duty to think about your head. Understand what a TBI is and communicate to your spouses, line leaders and health care providers when you think you have been injured.

There is an acronym to help remember the signs and symptoms of TBI called H.E.A.D.S. 

H - for headaches
E - for ears ringing / loss of hearing
A - for amnesia or altered loss of consciousness
D - for dizziness / double vision
S - for something feeling not right after an event or sleep issues.)

GET HELP - TBIs are treatable and recovery is possible. Most people who suffer a mild TBI recover completely. The first step in recovery from a TBI is recognizing the causes and the symptoms and seeking medical advice as soon as possible after a head injury. 

Due to the possible significant mental and physical impact of concussion exposures, the military established protocols that mandate medical evaluation after the following specific events: involvement in a vehicle accident or rollover, being within 50 meters of a blast inside or outside a building, a direct blow to the head in training or recreational activities, or as directed by command. 

From a warfighter's perspective, experiencing a brain injury event from a blast or explosion in the chaos of war may be difficult to share and hard explain, but patients should know there is help available. 

Disclaimer: Re-published content may have been edited for length and clarity. Read original post.

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