Mild Traumatic Brain Injuries (TBIs) are the most common form of TBIs and are often missed at the time of initial. A growing number of individuals in the military are sustaining mild TBIs each year and not receiving the appropriate evaluation and diagnosis. (Mild TBIs are also referred to by medical professionals as: concussion, minor head injury, minor brain injury, minor head trauma, minor TBI). 15% of people suffering from a mild TBI have symptoms that last longer than 1 year.
The American Congress of Rehabilitation Medicine defines a mild traumatic brain injury as a patient who has had a traumatically induced physiological disruption of brain function, as manifested by at least one of the following:
- any period of loss of consciousness under 30 minutes;
- any loss of memory for events immediately before or after the accident;
- any alteration in mental state at the time of the accident (eg, feeling dazed, disoriented, or confused); and
- focal neurological deficit(s) that may or may not be transient
With moderate or severe traumatic brain injury, the diagnosis is often self-evident. In the presence of other life threatening injuries, which is often the case with motor vehicle accidents, closed head injury can be missed. The focus is on lifesaving measures.
Supervisors and medics can sometimes forget to log the head injury if the service member seems to make a full recovery soon after the incident occurs. Mild TBI has been termed a “silent epidemic,”[ because many patients do not have visible physical signs, but still possess disabling cognitive, psychological, and/or behavioral impairments and employment disabilities that are often unnoticed or misdiagnosed.
Additionally, it is difficult for medical professionals to differentiate between the symptoms caused by a mild TBI (headache, dizziness, cognitive deficits in mild head trauma) and those caused by migraine or tension headaches alone, the largest factor separating the two being the mechanism of injury. Without a good history or an accurate record update, the two can be easily confused. Also, this history should be considered as far back as 10 years.
The person with a mild TBI looks normal and often moves normal in spite of not feeling or thinking normal[. This makes the diagnosis easy to miss. Family and friends often notice changes in behavior before the injured person realizes there is a problem. Frustration at work or when performing household tasks may bring the person to seek medical care.
Common Symptoms of Mild TBIs
- Visual disturbances
- Memory loss
- Poor attention/concentration
- Sleep disturbances
- Dizziness/loss of balance
- Irritability-emotional disturbances
- Feelings of depression
- Loss of smell
- Sensitivity to light and sounds
- Mood changes
- Getting lost or confused
- Slowness in thinking
Latent Symptoms of TBI
Some symptoms of a TBI develop hours or days after the injury occurred. These symptoms include:
- Trouble concentrating
- Memory problems
- Irritability and other personality changes
- Sensitivity to light and noise
- Sleep disturbances
- Depression and other psychological problems
- Disorders of smell and taste