Skip to main content

Military Health System

Clear Your Browser Cache

This website has recently undergone changes. Users finding unexpected concerns may care to clear their browser's cache to ensure a seamless experience.

Updated tools and training improve TBI and concussion recovery

Image of A group of military personnel wearing face mask working on laptop computers. Air National Guard service members from the 119th Civil Engineer Squadron take a baseline neuro-cognitive assessment known as an Automated Neuropsychological Assessment Metric as part of their pre-deployment training at the North Dakota Air National Guard Base, Fargo North Dakota, Feb. 6, 2021. This assessment can be repeated and used by medical professionals in the event of a suspected traumatic brain injury or concussion (Photo by: Air National Guard Tech. Sgt. Nathanael Baardson).

Up-to-date clinical tools help military health care providers diagnose and manage traumatic brain injury (TBI) on and off the battlefield. And an increased focus on training providers to use these tools is improving patient outcomes and mission readiness, according to research by the Traumatic Brain Injury Center of Excellence.

TBICoE recently conducted research on the Department of Defense Progressive Return to Activity Following Acute Concussion/Mild Traumatic Brain Injury clinical recommendations for managing headaches, as well as the Military Acute Concussion Evaluation 2, known as MACE 2.

TBICoE assessed the effectiveness of the return-to-activity guidelines after offering on-site training to providers. Using a similar study design, TBICoE also reported on the effectiveness of a post-traumatic headache management clinical recommendation. At the end of 2020, TBICoE published results of a study on the usability and utility of its MACE 2 screening tool when used in the field.

"We are applying what began with the (return to activity guidelines) a few years back to other TBICoE products," said TBICoE Division Chief, Navy Capt. (Dr.) Scott Pyne. "By training providers in how to use our state-of-the science tools and rehabilitation strategies, patients get better faster, and this contributes to our mission goals of better health and readiness."

TBICoE is a division of the Defense Health Agency Research and Development Directorate.

Based on a study at Army, Navy, and Marine installations, TBICoE researchers found training providers on the return-to-activity guidelines expanded their knowledge, leading to changes in concussion management, and in turn, a positive impact on patient outcomes. The researchers gave providers standardized training on the content and how to clinically apply return-to-activity guidelines for service members with acute concussion. The clinical recommendation describes how to gradually increase patient activity through six stages. The study assessed providers' approach to patient progression through the stages before and after the training.

“Providers who are directly trained in return-to-activity guidelines are more likely to provide effective patient education, ultimately helping their patients to recover more rapidly,” wrote Mark Ettenhofer, a TBICoE research neuropsychologist at Naval Medical Center San Diego, in an article authored with TBICoE colleagues at Fort Bragg, North Carolina; Camp Pendleton, California; and TBICoE headquarters in Silver Spring, Maryland. Recently, TBICoE revised the return-to-activity recommendations to align with the latest scientific literature findings.

TBICoE also assessed the effectiveness of its headache management clinical recommendation, and found instructing providers in its use also improved outcomes. Like the return-to-activity study, providers learned about the headache management clinical recommendation, which provides tools for assessing post-traumatic headaches and contains both drug and non-drug interventions for decreasing their frequency, severity, and duration. The researchers assessed the providers’ treatment approaches before and after instruction, and found, after training, providers scheduled follow-up visits more frequently, which led to better patient monitoring.

"The results presented in this study demonstrate the potential of the Management of Headache Following Concussion (Clinical Recommendation) to promote provider knowledge and confidence in treating (post-traumatic headaches) in a military setting. This in turn may translate to timely return to duty," wrote Camp Pendleton Research Scientist Rosemay Remigio-Baker and colleagues.

In another study published in 2020, TBICoE researchers showed primary care managers and medics could use the MACE 2 screening tool effectively. Designed by TBICoE in conjunction with the TBI Advisory Committee and the military services, the MACE 2 enables users in the field to screen for common symptoms, cognitive deficits, and neurological signs following concussion. Revised in 2018 to improve accuracy, the newer tool now assesses balance and eye motion, increasing screening time.

Bilal Khokhar, an epidemiologist at TBICoE, and his colleagues surveyed 28 active duty primary care managers and 22 Army combat medics. They were asked to rate, on a scale from strongly disagree to strongly agree, whether they could use the tool, whether various tests were helpful, and whether they were confident about those tests.  When the individual responses were averaged by category of question, the response was positive, and no overall average score fell below the neutral rating.

"Despite the increased complexity and duration of the MACE 2 compared with the previous version of this tool, military providers and Army medics found the new MACE 2 very useable and had a high degree of confidence in its performance," wrote Khokhar and colleagues. However, the researchers cautioned that future studies may result in additional revisions.

"Work must be performed in perpetuity to deliver a product usable by clinicians that offers the greatest validity," said Seth Kiser, the study's senior author and a research scientist at TBICoE.

All these studies demonstrate how TBICoE draws on its expertise in research, clinical affairs, and education to continually update its products and facilitate training, so providers will always "Be TBI ready," based on the latest science. Providers can get the most current information on these tools from TBICoE’s publications, and obtain training on their use from regional education coordinators.

To learn more about Brain Injury Awareness Month, check out the BIAM page on Health.mil.

You also may be interested in...

Publication
Dec 14, 2023

March 22, 2024, TBICoE QES Event: Prolonged Field Medicine and TBI

.PDF | 220.63 KB

A challenge of modern-day warfare is determining the course of care when a battlefield injury results in traumatic brain injury. Join the Traumatic Brain Injury Center of Excellence for a discussion on TBI care in austere environments.

Publication
Dec 14, 2023

2024 TBICoE Quarterly Education Series Schedule

.PDF | 209.46 KB

Save the dates with a complete 2024 schedule of the Traumatic Brain Injury Center of Excellence's Quarterly Education Series. The QES is an enterprise-wide learning opportunity for Military Health System stakeholders. Since inception, the QES provides trainings and education events that are relevant to the MHS, discussing specialty topics and current ...

Publication
Dec 4, 2023

Acute Concussion Care Pathway: MACE 2 and PRA Training Flier

.PDF | 228.63 KB

The Traumatic Brain Injury Center of Excellence is hosting a combined Military Acute Concussion Evaluation and Progressive Return to Activity clinical recommendation virtual training. Attendees may earn two CEUs through the Defense Health Agency Continuing Education Program Office. Download the flier for the complete 2024 training schedule.

Publication
Nov 29, 2023

TBICoE's Low-Level Blast Research Efforts Infographic

.PDF | 2.12 MB

This infographic illustrates TBICoE's work to better understand how low-level blast influences warfighter brain health. These efforts directly support Line of Effort 2 of the Warfighter Brain Health Initiative.

Publication
Sep 29, 2023

TBICoE Research Review: Mild TBI and PTSD

.PDF | 435.28 KB

This research review provides an in-depth summary of the available clinical research on the topic of co-morbid mild traumatic brain injury and posttraumatic stress disorder. Specifically, this review will address symptoms, anatomy, diagnosis, and treatment of mild TBI, PTSD, and the unique circumstances associated with the presentation of both.

Publication
Sep 29, 2023

Mild TBI and PTSD Clinical Pearls

.PDF | 924.82 KB

TBICoE's "Mild Traumatic Brain Injury and Posttraumatic Stress Disorder Clinical Pearls," is a new supplemental product to the detailed research review. This resource is designed to be brief and provide key actionable “clinical pearls” that should be considered in the treatment of service members with comorbid mild TBI and PTSD.

Publication
Jun 16, 2023

Neurodegenerative Diseases and Traumatic Brain Injury Information Paper

.PDF | 310.80 KB

The long term effects of TBI are unknown, but there is concern that there may be an association with neurodegenerative diseases years after the injury. The intention of this information paper is to summarize the available evidence for or against an association of TBI with three of the more common neurodegenerative diseases.

Publication
Apr 7, 2023

2022 TBICoE Publication Catalog

.PDF | 577.80 KB

TBICoE publication citations and summaries are organized by category, or overarching research topic. The purpose of this document is to (1) summarize key findings and potential clinical implications of calendar year 2022 TBICoE publications, (2) increase awareness, and (3) assist in planning of future efforts.

Publication
Mar 17, 2023

TBICoE Research Review: Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy

.PDF | 1.87 MB

The purpose of this Research Review is to summarize current peer-reviewed scientific literature and expert assessment regarding the pathology, genetic pre-disposition, causes, clinical manifestations, and neuroimaging of chronic traumatic encephalopathy.

Publication
Mar 16, 2023

Back to School: A Guide to Academic Success After Traumatic Brain Injury

.PDF | 1.40 MB

Back to School: A Guide to Academic Success After Traumatic Brain Injury is a free resource, developed by the Traumatic Brain Injury Center of Excellence that is tailored to help service members and veterans who have sustained a TBI and are pursuing higher education. Those who have sustained a TBI may face unique challenges, and this guide provides ...

Publication
Mar 15, 2023

INFORMATION PAPER: The Impact of Mild Traumatic Brain Injury on the Autonomic Nervous System

.PDF | 381.19 KB

The purpose of this information paper by TBICoE is to provide a general overview of the current evidence related to the impact of concussion/mild traumatic brain injury (mTBI) on the autonomic nervous system (ANS). This paper will focus on heart rate variability (HRV), pupillary light reflex (PLR), and hyperhidrosis within the military and civilian ...

Publication
Jan 23, 2023

Progressive Return to Activity: Primary Care for Acute Concussion Management

.PDF | 471.02 KB

The Progressive Return to Activity (PRA): Primary Care for Acute Concussion Management clinical recommendation is an evidence-based return to activity protocol for primary care managers and concussion/traumatic brain injury (TBI) clinic providers. The PRA is a six-step approach that begins after the provider performs the Military Acute Concussion ...

Last Updated: January 22, 2024
Follow us on Instagram Follow us on LinkedIn Follow us on Facebook Follow us on X Follow us on YouTube Sign up on GovDelivery