On Veterans Day, we honor those who have served in our armed forces. Every day we are thankful for the freedom they secure and honor them as a nation.

As we appreciate the service of so many women and men, we realize the personal price paid. The wars in Afghanistan and Iraq have left approximately 22% of Veterans who fought in combat with traumatic brain injuries (TBI). This is almost double what was experienced in VietNam.

TBI results from blasts, blast plus motor vehicle accidents (MVA’s), MVA’s alone, and gunshot wounds. When a soldier has been exposed to a blast, he/she may experience the post-concussive symptoms for longer than a civilian and have residual symptoms for 18-24 months after the injury.

A tag along disorder is Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), previously known as shell shock or battle fatigue. It is a condition experienced after someone has witnessed a trauma, physical event or terror so often seen in war. The reactions of shock, anger, fear, nervousness and guilt can be relived or avoided when something triggers the memory. PTSD can cause a Veteran to be moody, irritable, startle easily and cause problems with sleep, concentration, showing affection and more. Add to PTSD and TBI, chronic pain and substance abuse as potential problems as well.

But there are treatments available through the VA system. There are four Polytrauma Rehabilitation Centers and 21 Polytrauma Network Sites dedicated to treating TBI. Veterans may need ongoing cognitive and vocational rehabilitation, case management, and pharmacological intervention to return to their highest level of function. Treatments that seem to work best with PTSD and TBI include cognitive processing therapy, prolonged exposure and/or use of medications. If you are a Veteran or know someone who is and needs treatment, contact the VA for help.

Also be aware of the National Intrepid Center of Excellence, a Department of Defense initiative dedicated to providing cutting edge evaluation, treatment planning, research and education for service members and their families dealing with psychological health issues and TBI. Here is the link. This is where our special guest, Dr. Tony Panettiere works on a daily basis to treat TBI.

This week, make a special effort to thank a veteran for his/her service! They have paid a price. Now we need to do everything possible to help them.

Understanding traumatic brain injury

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