From Battlefield to Home Front: Protecting our Veterans and Loved Ones from TBIs

For all Americans, Veterans Day is a time to honor and thank the men and women who served in the military and dedicated their lives to protecting our country. In particular, I think about the veterans I treat for traumatic brain injuries (TBIs) and the stories they tell of how their service-related injuries have a daily impact on their lives and their families.

In the emergency department I've seen how TBIs can result from a single bump or blow to the head and lead to lifelong effects. TBIs, whether sustained in a war zone or at home, are a leading cause of injury-related death and disability in the United States. Military service members and veterans are of special concern. Research shows that of all new cases of TBI among military personnel, about 80% occur in non-deployed settings such as motor vehicle crashes, falls, sports and recreation activities, and assaults.

Most TBIs can be prevented. CDC's Injury Center is collaborating with A Head for the Future, an initiative of the Defense and Veterans Brain Injury Center (DVBIC). The goal of this initiative is to raise awareness of the signs, symptoms, treatment, and prevention of TBIs. DVBIC collects stories from TBI champions who have served in the military and are currently living with TBI. Their stories can give other survivors hope.

I read Marine Lieutenant Colonel Tim Maxwell's story about his journey to recovery after he was wounded and sustained a TBI while on his sixth combat deployment in Iraq. During his recovery, Tim visited other wounded service members in the hospital, and later counseled Marines who suffered the effects of serious head injuries. Stories like his show the need for continued support after recovering from a TBI. To honor his service the Marines in 2005 opened Maxwell Hall, the first barracks for wounded warriors on the East Coast. The Marine Corps opened a similar unit on the West Coast in 2006. The barracks are designed for men and women still on active duty in the Marine Corps, many of whom serve in the Wounded Warrior Regiment.

Each TBI champion's story is different. They show us that every TBI is unique and demonstrate how important it is to recognize the signs and symptoms of TBI, whether you're on active duty or back to civilian life. If you have signs and symptoms of a TBI, please talk to your doctor as soon as possible.

I'd like to personally salute all veterans for their service, and I wish you continued health and longevity. Happy Veterans Day!

Preventing Concussions and Other Brain Injuries

Help keep yourself and loved ones safe by:
  • Wearing the right helmet--and making sure it fits properly during sports and recreation activities.
  • Wearing a seat belt each and every time you ride in a car.
  • Taking steps to prevent falls--especially among young children and older adults.
Learn More