Brain injuries are among the most common injuries soldiers sustain in Iraq and Afghanistan. The military says about 150,000 soldiers have received such injuries, but others say the number is over 400,000. These injuries can occur when shock waves from bombs pass through helmets and the brain, and are further compounded when soldiers are thrown against walls or vehicles by the shock waves, shaking the brain again. Symptoms caused by these injuries can range from headaches to vertigo to difficulties with memory and reasoning.
Many soldiers feel that the care they have received after these injuries has been inadequate. In top neurocognitive rehabilitation centers, patients with even mild traumatic brain injuries can receive treatment for three to six hours a day for many months. In contrast, many soldiers are only receiving two to four hours of cognitive treatment a week. Sometimes there is even a long waiting period for these limited treatments due to short staffing.
The longer soldiers go without therapy, the greater chance that the brain injuries will remain permanent. By not performing therapy on the brain, it essentially falls into disuse. But traumatic brain injuries are often looked over in favor of treating Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) as can be seen by the funding and effort put into a PTSD clinic at Fort Bliss, Texas, while the recently build clinic for brain injuries remains empty and unused.
Because of this, soldiers and their families are fighting for care. With enough awareness, those soldiers suffering from traumatic brain injuries can receive the care they need to manage their symptoms.