Cyndi Clark/Munson Army Health Center Public Affairs
The Military Health System recognizes March as Brain Injury Awareness Month.
Dr. Patrick Armistead-Jehle, chief of the Concussion Clinic at Munson Army Health Center, said these “invisible wounds” are generally thought of to be inflicted on the battlefield or through a massive motor vehicle accident. They are also commonly associated with losing consciousness or through impact and jolts to the head.
“People have a misconception if they’re not knocked out, it’s not a concussion,” he said. “It’s actually any sort of external injury that happens to the head, with the most common symptom is feeling dazed and confused. While you don’t have to be knocked out, it still counts as a concussive injury and needs to be treated appropriately.”
It is imperative, Armistead-Jehle said, to seek primary care as soon as possible, for many reasons.
“We’re dealing with the brain; it’s a very complex organ,” he said. “We want to be able to have someone to oversee what’s going on with the cluster of symptoms you can have as a physiological result of the injury, which is why it’s important to be seen so that the injury can be managed and the symptoms can be resolved as quickly as possible.”
The Traumatic Brain Injury Center of Excellence reported 449,026 service members have been diagnosed with a first-time mild, moderate, severe or penetrating TBI since 2000. People who experience a TBI also have increased risk for mental health conditions, such as anxiety and depression, as well as sleeping problems, especially those with pre-existing conditions.
“Individuals that have pre-existing behavioral health conditions like depression or (post-traumatic stress disorder), when they have a concussion their symptoms can last a little bit longer and tend to respond a little bit worse to concussive injuries,” Armistead-Jehle said.
The three categories of symptoms resulting from a concussion are varied. The somatic symptoms include vertigo, headaches or fatigue; competent symptoms are poor memory, poor attention or just feeling foggy; and emotional symptoms include anxiety, depression and irritability.
“Most of these are short-term and in response to a physiologic response to the injury itself; however, generally speaking with concussion-related illness, these symptoms diminish with time if managed appropriately, which is why seeking primary care immediately is so important,” Armistead-Jehle said.
He said a good work/rest balance is necessary, and normally a primary care provider will try to limit screen time and physical activity. A gradual return to work and activities such as light physical activity, light walks and some housework will follow. Then normal activities can go back to normal after a couple days or a couple weeks.
In the event of a head injury, call the MAHC appointment line at 913-684-6250 for an appointment with a primary care provider.
The Traumatic Brain Injury Center of Excellence is a congressionally mandated collaboration of the Departments of Defense and Veterans Affairs to promote state-of-the-science care for service members, veterans and their families. Visit https://health.mil/Military-Health-Topics/Centers-of-Excellence/Traumatic-Brain-Injury-Center-of-Excellence for more information.