Back to Top Skip to main content

DVBIC study focuses on concussion-related headaches

Soldier (center) standing at attention receives an award pinned to their uniform, from a soldier standing directly before her, with a soldier standing at attention to one side. A long building is seen in the background with two flagpoles, one flying the US flag. Stephanie Ehlers is awarded a Purple Heart on April 8, 2007 for injuries sustained in Iraq. She had bilateral perforations of the eardrums and a TBI. (Photo Courtesy of Stephanie Ehlers)

Recommended Content:

Traumatic Brain Injury | September Toolkit

Headaches are the most common form of pain, according to the National Institutes of Health’s National Library of Medicine. 

Service members with concussion-related headaches often experience more frequent and severe pain compared to those with headaches unrelated to this condition, according to recently published data from the Warrior Strong Study. This multi-year research project was conducted by the Defense and Veterans Brain Injury Center, a division of the Defense Health Agency Research and Development Directorate.

Headaches remain the most frequently reported symptom among service members who have sustained concussions, also known as mild traumatic brain injuries. Seventy-four percent of participants in Operation Enduring Freedom and Operation Iraqi Freedom had post-traumatic headaches within 30 days of sustaining a concussion, as reported by DVBIC.

Between 2009 and 2015, DVBIC researchers surveyed more than 1,500 soldiers, and then followed up with them after three months, then again after six months, and finally, a year later.

“We wanted to find out how active-duty soldiers were doing after coming back from the war zone with concussion,” said Karen Schwab, DVBIC researcher and the study’s principal investigator. Ultimately, the findings may inform DVBIC’s future clinical recommendations and guidelines in the prevention, diagnosis, and treatment of concussions in the U.S. armed forces.

In total, researchers interviewed 1,567 soldiers from combat operations in Afghanistan and Iraq during post deployment health assessments at Fort Carson, Colorado and Fort Bragg, North Carolina. Participants answered 31 headache-related questions to help researchers identify post-traumatic headaches. The soldiers were asked about how frequent and how painful their headaches were, compared to before they deployed, and if their headaches changed after an injury, illness, or some other event during deployment.

Of the 1,094 soldiers who reported headaches, 557 had also experienced concussions. For soldiers whose headaches were related to their concussion, symptoms were more severe and more often led to medical consultation, compared to the group whose headaches were unrelated to TBI.

Post-traumatic headaches often resemble migraines, a painful sensation in the head often associated with nausea and sensitivity to light, among other symptoms.

Notably, the gender composition of the Warrior Strong study differed markedly from studies of migraine headaches in civilian populations. Overall, 91% of the Warrior Strong participants and 94% of those with concussions were male. By contrast, civilian clinical studies on migraines are performed on groups that are around 80% women, a reflection of the demographic fact that adult women are two-to-three times more likely to suffer from migraines than men.

“The evidence base for treating headaches is not specific to post-traumatic headaches. And it may or may not be relevant for treating them. We really don’t know,” said Ann Scher, a professor of epidemiology at Uniformed Services University and the study’s corresponding author.

While there are no specific drug therapies for post-traumatic headaches approved by the Food and Drug Administration, the study results could lead to the design of clinical trials and the development of targeted pharmaceutical remedies, Scher said.

Fortunately, there are multiple behavior changes and medical modalities to treat and reduce the severity of post-traumatic headaches; these include improving sleep patterns, muscle relaxation, anxiety reducing techniques, physical therapy, cognitive behavior therapy, and acupuncture.

To help patients in their care, DVBIC developed the Headache Virtual Suite to offer health care providers a step-by-step process to determine the type of post-traumatic headaches and guidance on its evaluation and treatment.

After her second TBI, former soldier Stephanie Ehlers was told by her medical provider to rest for 24 hours without providing additional therapeutic guidance. When her TBI was more accurately diagnosed a few years later, the former Army Medical Service Corps officer learned various coping methods that set her on the road to recovery.

Ehlers, who also described her experiences as part of DVBIC’s educational campaign called ‘A Head for the Future’, concluded by stating, “Early identification and early treatment of TBI is so important.”

You also may be interested in...

SCORE Chapter 3

Publication
8/4/2020

Computerized Cognitive Rehabilitation Interventions for Persistent Symptoms Mild TBI Chapter three describes the computerized cognitive rehabilitation interventions used in the second SCORE treatment arm (SCORE Arm 2).

Recommended Content:

Traumatic Brain Injury | Traumatic Brain Injury Center of Excellence | Provider Resources

SCORE Chapter 2

Publication
8/4/2020

Psychoeducational Interventions for Persistent Post-Concussion Symptoms Following Combat-Related Mild TBI Chapter two summarizes the psychoeducational interventions used for the control group in the first SCORE treatment arm (SCORE Arm 1). This educational material has been specifically adapted for use with service members and veterans who experience a more chronic course of symptoms following combat-related concussion. Section one explains the background of psychoeducation in the treatment of mild TBI, and section two provides the psychoeducational tool, called the client’s guide to recovery.

Recommended Content:

Traumatic Brain Injury | Traumatic Brain Injury Center of Excellence | Provider Resources

DVBIC Publications 1992-2018

Publication
8/4/2020

DVBIC research publications from 1992-2018.

Recommended Content:

Research and Development (J-9) | Traumatic Brain Injury Center of Excellence | Provider Resources | Traumatic Brain Injury | TBI Resources | TBICoE Research

DVBIC Publications 2019

Publication
8/4/2020

Citation information for 2019 publications of DVBIC research.

Recommended Content:

Research and Development (J-9) | Traumatic Brain Injury Center of Excellence | Provider Resources | Traumatic Brain Injury | TBICoE Research

TBI Hot Topics Bulletin September 2020

Publication
8/4/2020

Are you a busy health care provider? Not enough time to keep up with research? Stay informed with the TBI Hot Topics Bulletin. We track the latest TBI scientific studies, advances, and discoveries most relevant to health care providers. This issue covers the second quarter of calendar year 2020.

Recommended Content:

Traumatic Brain Injury Center of Excellence | TBI Educators | Provider Resources | Traumatic Brain Injury | TBI Resources

TBICoE Research Review: Mild TBI and PTSD

Publication
8/4/2020

This research review provides an overview of the topic of co-morbid mild TBI and posttraumatic stress disorder. This review focuses on symptoms, diagnosis, and treatment of PTSD and mild TBI symptoms in patients with mild TBI history. While it can be difficult to differentiate symptoms of mild TBI from PTSD symptoms, especially months or years after the injury event, this review aims to present information relevant to understanding these often complex cases.

Recommended Content:

Traumatic Brain Injury Center of Excellence | Traumatic Brain Injury | TBICoE Research | Provider Resources

Help With Ongoing Symptoms After Concussion

Publication
8/3/2020

Although the majority of service members recover from concussion with little to no intervention, some experience symptoms beyond the first three months after their initial injury. This guide addresses why symptoms continue to persist in some patients and how they can cope or seek additional help

Recommended Content:

Traumatic Brain Injury Center of Excellence | TBI Educators | DoD TBI Worldwide Numbers | Patient and Family Resources | Provider Resources | A Head for the Future | Traumatic Brain Injury | TBI Symptoms | TBI Resources

Taking Care of Yourself While Caring for Others

Publication
8/3/2020

This guide provides coping techniques and self-care advice to those caring for a service member or veteran with a TBI.

Recommended Content:

Traumatic Brain Injury Center of Excellence | Patient and Family Resources | TBI Educators | Provider Resources | A Head for the Future | Traumatic Brain Injury | TBI Resources

A Parent's Guide to Returning Your Child to School After a Concussion

Publication
8/3/2020

Car crashes, playground falls and sports injuries cause thousands of concussions a year among children. This guide offers practical advice to parents on how to recognize the signs and symptoms of a concussion, information on treatment and recovery, and what a parent can do to support a child’s recovery and successful return to school.

Recommended Content:

TBI Resources | Traumatic Brain Injury | Traumatic Brain Injury Center of Excellence | TBI Educators | Patient and Family Resources | Provider Resources

Talking with Children about Moderate or Severe TBI

Publication
8/3/2020

This guide offers communication techniques to parents or guardians who are struggling to help their children understand the changes in a loved one who sustained a moderate or severe TBI.

Recommended Content:

Traumatic Brain Injury | TBI Resources | Traumatic Brain Injury Center of Excellence | Patient and Family Resources | TBI Educators | Provider Resources | A Head for the Future

Talking with Children about TBI

Publication
8/3/2020

This guide offers communication techniques to parents or guardians who are struggling to help their children understand the changes in a loved one who sustained a TBI. It features specific communication techniques based on the age and stage of development of the child.

Recommended Content:

Traumatic Brain Injury | TBI Resources | Children's Health | Traumatic Brain Injury Center of Excellence | TBI Educators | Patient and Family Resources | Provider Resources | A Head for the Future

2019 DVBIC Annual Report

Publication
8/3/2020

Recommended Content:

Traumatic Brain Injury | TBI Resources

Back to School Guide for Academic Success After TBI

Publication
8/3/2020

This booklet provides guidance to service members and veterans who have ongoing symptoms from a TBI and are going to college, university or vocational school. It gives answers to common questions about accommodation plans, financial aid and assistive technology.

Recommended Content:

Traumatic Brain Injury | TBI Resources | Traumatic Brain Injury Center of Excellence | TBI Educators | Patient and Family Resources | Provider Resources

Addressing Family Needs

Publication
8/3/2020

This booklet provides loved ones with the tools, techniques and guidance to understand the changes their service member or veteran may experience after a TBI.

Recommended Content:

Traumatic Brain Injury | TBI Resources | Traumatic Brain Injury Center of Excellence | TBI Educators | Patient and Family Resources | Provider Resources

Return to Activity Educational Guidance for Service Members with Symptoms Following a Concussion

Publication
8/3/2020

This guide is intended to help service members and veterans who have experienced a concussion recover as quickly and safely as possible. It outlines each stage of the recovery process, explains what affected individuals should expect throughout the recovery process, provides guidance on how to track progress and includes a table to track developments.

Recommended Content:

Traumatic Brain Injury | Traumatic Brain Injury Center of Excellence
<< < 1 2 3 4 5  ... > >> 
Showing results 61 - 75 Page 5 of 13

DHA Address: 7700 Arlington Boulevard | Suite 5101 | Falls Church, VA | 22042-5101

Some documents are presented in Portable Document Format (PDF). A PDF reader is required for viewing. Download a PDF Reader or learn more about PDFs.