The Armed Forces membership organization, Military.com, explains that traumatic brain injury (TBI) is frequently known as the “signature wound of the Iraq and Afghanistan wars.” Causes of TBI include falls and vehicle accidents, though improvised explosive devices (IEDs) are responsible for most of these reported injuries.
Soldiers who suffered undetected brain injuries early in the Iraq and Afghanistan wars generally rejoined the fight without any treatment or rest. However, as the war in Iraq ended and engagement in Afghanistan continues to decline, more attention is being paid to these brain injuries, particularly more mild ones like concussion.
The American Statesman reports that over 200,000 U.S. service members, or about 10 percent of troops who served in Afghanistan and Iraq, have suffered a TBI. These injuries can lead to long-term problems like depression, mood swings, and difficulty thinking.
To address the later issues these injured soldiers face, the Craig Joint Theater Hospital at Bagram Air Base in Afghanistan offers a concussion care center where soldiers receive swift treatment and rest after a head injury. Medical experts have found that the soothing care they receive at this clinic can help prevent the long-term problems associated with a TBI.
Air Force Maj. Katherine Brown, the officer in charge of the clinic, explains that TBI rehabilitation protocols have not yet been well-researched. Therefore, she is working with the Department of Defense to make sure these rehabilitation challenges are met.
When soldiers first arrive at the clinic, they are often confused, disoriented, and struggle with their balance. Therefore, during the first day these soldiers are encouraged to do nothing but sleep. The article explains this rest period is probably the most important part of their recovery process, especially because quiet areas are so hard to find around combat area bases.
Following this full day of rest, servicemen and women move to a day room to relax by watching relatively low-stimulation comedies, opposed to the action and war movies most soldiers favor. Although some soldiers request to return to their units at this point, Brown keeps them longer, telling them that returning would not yet be safe for them or their teammates.
Finally, improving soldiers move to a third building to take part in cognitive reasoning exercises and eye movement practice. The article explains that brain injuries can impact quick eye movement, which is particularly dangerous in a war zone where so much depends on the rapid response to threats.
Following their completion of this course, soldiers might receive referral to counselors in the combat stress department of the hospital, or undergo more physical rehabilitation. However, most soldiers return to their units, the article says.
Military.com explains that brain injury recovery depends on the individual and degree of damage. However, the military resource also points out that immediate medical treatment remains “essential for stabilizing, preventing further damage and physical/mental rehabilitation.” With this concussion care clinic, soldiers in Afghanistan now have a location and program to receive the immediate medical care that will help them avoid the long-term consequences of a TBI.