Soldiers are threatened daily by attacks, explosives, vehicle rollovers and other life threatening events. While the resulting cuts, bruises and broken bones are easy to diagnose and treat, another common injury is harder to spot and may have farther-reaching consequences. Mild traumatic brain injury (MTBI) is prevalent among U.S. Soldiers and can lead to other continuing problems such as post-traumatic epilepsy, mental health problems such as depression, and Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD).
PTSD and Mild Traumatic Brain Injury
An estimated 20 percent of returning U.S. soldiers have or will develop PTSD, resulting in high suicide rates and other emotional disorders. In the early half of 2009, more American troops died by suicide than combat injuries. While the Army regards PTSD as a treatable condition, it is not always properly recognized or monitored in soldiers suffering from head injuries. The problem may be that MTBI can be difficult to spot.
Tests to Identify MTBI
At the MTBI Clinic, 626th Brigade Support Battalion, 3rd Brigade, 101st Airborne Division, soldiers with recognized cases of MTBI are given 24 hours of rest and then evaluated with the Military Acute Concussion Evaluation (MACE). The 13-part test checks various brain systems such as memory and sequencing. It identifies areas of difficulty, letting caregivers triage patients according to their test scores. The MACE test is administered again every few days, monitoring patient progress.
Other neurological tests help to identify problems with balance and complex movements. Patients are also checked for common brain injury symptoms, such as uneven pupils, slurred speech, nausea, vomiting, memory lapses, cognitive difficulties, or loss of consciousness. If MTBI is diagnosed and treated early, troops have a better chance of returning to duty quickly within minimal side effects. But those who never make it to the clinic often suffer in silence.
When PTSD and MTBI Go Undiagnosed
Chuck Luther, a Texas soldier who rejoined the Army after the Sept. 11 attacks, was hit by a mortar shell in 2007. Although he complained of crippling migraines and stabbing eye pain, he was accused of faking symptoms and sent back in the field. He suffered psychological symptoms and eventually attacked another soldier and chaplain after his brain injury and PTSD went untreated for 6 to 8 weeks. He was finally discharged for having a personality disorder, rather than evaluated and treated for his injuries.
PTSD is just one of many emotional difficulties and disorders that can result from traumatic brain injuries. While soldiers may be more likely to suffer from emotional disorders stemming from TBI because of their constant exposure to danger, PTSD and other emotional disorders like depression, anxiety and problems with focus can happen to anyone.
If you or someone you love suffered a traumatic brain injury and is suffering from psychological symptoms, contact a doctor for an evaluation and then contact our office for help. We can offer a free consultation and legal advice to help you learn if you may be entitled to compensation for your injury.