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March marks Brain Injury Awareness Month

(U.S. Air Force graphic/Robin Meredith)

(U.S. Air Force graphic/Robin Meredith)

WASHINGTON (AFNS) -- Often called one of the "invisible wounds of war," traumatic brain injury (TBI) is the result of a blow or jolt to the head that disrupts the normal function of the brain. Anyone can suffer a TBI, it can happen on the sports field, in your home, or on the job.

During March, the Military Health System (MHS) is focusing its talent and efforts on the issue of TBI. We will provide tools and resources to educate service members, their families, retirees and Defense Department civilians about the prevention and treatment of TBI, while highlighting ongoing MHS research and breakthroughs.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, each year 1.7 million people are diagnosed with a brain injury. The most common form of TBI, even for the military, is mild TBI (also referred to as a concussion) and the vast majority occur at home. The Defense and Veterans Brain Injury Center reported that from 2000-2014 more than 313,000 service members were diagnosed with TBI, and most of these were mild.

MHS research has produced several breakthroughs that improve the lives of our patients, beneficiaries, and all Americans who sustain TBIs. Our work is even taking us back to college to examine the impact of TBIs on athletes. The NCAA and the DOD are currently sponsoring the "Mind Matters Challenge," a landmark initiative to enhance the safety of student-athletes and service members. The partnership is the most comprehensive study of concussion and head impact exposure ever conducted.

For TBI patients, TRICARE covers rehabilitative services provided by physicians, psychologists, physical therapists, occupational therapists, and speech-language pathologists. The DOD offers a variety of products such as clinical recommendations, tool kits, and mobile applications to assist health care providers in the diagnosis, evaluation, and treatment of patients with mild TBI.

One of the most important steps in TBI treatment is rest, which allows the brain to physically and mentally recover, and removes the risk of suffering another concussion while the brain is healing. Early diagnosis of TBI, as well as evaluation, and treatment can shorten return-to-duty time and lead to the best possible outcome for those entrusted to our care.

Along with our partnerships and cutting-edge research, MHS is making great progress in improving and prolonging the quality of life for those living with TBI.

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