By Debbie Gregory.
New research done by scientists at Johns Hopkins University has found that thousands of wounded war veterans have return from service with undiagnosed brain injuries.
The resulting physical pain and mental distress has a profound impact on the veterans. In addition to withdrawing and hiding symptoms from loved ones, sufferers have an increased risk of memory loss, cognitive struggles, mood disorders, migraine headaches, addiction, insomnia and suicide.
A major contributor to the injury toll among combat personnel is the recent widespread use of IEDs. Thanks to strengthened body armor and improved battlefield medicine, soldiers today survive blasts that not long ago would have been fatal. But the high-powered explosives also leave troops vulnerable to other injuries, including loss of limbs and head trauma.
According to the study, there is a line of demarcation between those who suffered injuries before 2010, and those who incurred them afterwards, when there was a positive cultural shift relating to the mental health and emotional well-being of those who served. Servicemembers who were injured after 2010 were much more likely to be diagnosed and treated.
However, the researchers reported that progress was still needed and that many veterans said that they were passed between different branches of the military’s medical infrastructure without receiving appropriate treatment.
Researcher Rachel P. Chase accompanied her brother Nate on a trip to visit an Army buddy when the discussion of TBIs in the military came up. Deciding to make that subject her PhD thesis, Chase immersed herself in the lives of veterans, compiling their stories of frustration, anger and determination, and counting their unseen battle wounds that often left deep and enduring scars.
Chase’s PhD thesis was titled “You Don’t Have Anything to Give but Your Word and a Faulty Memory.”
Her hope is that her work will help spotlight the issue of undocumented TBIs in the military and serve as a starting point to develop new policies that better meet the complex needs of affected veterans.
“I think these results need to be a part of the conversation as we figure out … how are we going to take care of our service members and vets,” she said.