mission is to reduce the number of injuries and deaths due to
through prevention, improved trauma care, and improved rehabilitation.
Traumatic Injury: The Legacy of the US War in
Part One: Brain Injury
The war in Iraq is creating a new generation of disabled veterans. Advances
in body armor and kevlar helmets have reduced the number of fatal gunshot
wounds but leave limbs vulnerable to improvised explosive devices, land
mines and mortar attack.
Each day, approximately 10 U.S. soldiers are injured, many with serious burns and limbs too damaged to save. The
incidence of traumatic brain injury among these troops has risen dramatically. Dr.
Laurie Ryan, a neuropsychologist and the assistant director for research at
Walter Reed Army Medical Center, notes that, "Among 105 casualties assessed between June and October, doctors discovered about two-thirds, or 67 percent, to have brain
News). This percentage accounts only for casualties whose injuries are serious enough to require evacuation from Iraq and only
those identified by medical staff as being at risk for brain injury. A
random sampling of all troops would reveal a much higher incidence of brain
trauma. (see Army
Diagnosis can be difficult even when head injury is apparent or the patient
is able to describe a concussive head injury to their doctors. Even mild
brain injury can cause depression, reduced cognitive functioning, nausea,
sleep disturbance, erratic behavior, and violent mood swings. These
disabilities are exacerbated by misdiagnosis, lack of treatment, the
publicıs perceptions of brain injury and mental illness. For brain injured veterans, the lack of physical signs and the diffuse nature of symptoms is
often met with skepticism, considered to be psychological, or worse, malingering.
How many young veterans will live the rest of their lives with debilitating
brain injury? How will these veterans fare in the routines of daily life?
Will they be able to maintain employment? How will their injuries impact
their families, friends, co-workers, and communities?
Many of these injuries could be prevented or reduced with the use of
cushioned helmets which are now only available to a fraction of the U.S.
troops. Everything possible should be done to acknowledge the severity of
combat injuries and ensure that brain injury is detected and treated now,
and throughout these veterans' lifetimes. The best prevention, however, is
an end to this war and the doctrine of preemptive war.
This is the first in a series of stories on Injury and the war in Iraq.
Next: Civilian Injuries and the impact on Iraqi children.