We have discussed here on multiple occasions the long-term effects of concussions and other brain injuries. A number of former professional football players have come forward recently with their own stories of memory loss, depression and host of neurological conditions.
Concussions and brain injuries are increasingly common in members of the military as well. Most brain injuries to military members who have served in war zones in recent years are caused by bomb blasts. Some service members are participating in research studies that are providing useful information on the physical and psychological conditions suffered long after the brain injury occurred.
A study published this month in the JAMA Psychiatry journal discusses the strong link between concussions and Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder. Researchers studied over 1,600 Marines from four Southern California-based battalions who served in Afghanistan and Iraq between 2008 and 2012. The Marines underwent testing for PTSD and other psychological problems a month after they deployed and were retested three to six months after they returned to the U.S.
About one-fifth of the subjects said they had suffered a minimum of one "traumatic brain injury" while they were deployed. Those who suffered a brain injury during their deployment were anywhere from 23 to 34 percent more likely to suffer from PTSD. While the psychological trauma of enduring a bomb blast could certainly contribute to the likelihood of developing PTSD, a physician and researcher at a San Diego Veterans Affairs facility notes that a head injury can actually cause "structural changes" to the brain that increase the chances of developing PTSD.
As the drawdown of our troops in Afghanistan continues, it's likely more research on the effects of brain injuries and their connection to PTSD will be done, and perhaps researchers will get more answers on the likelihood of a brain injury outside of war to cause PTSD. All research, whether on athletes or service members, will help those who are working to minimize the number of brain injuries and to help ensure that those who suffer brain injuries because of the negligence of others are fairly compensated. This can help them get the long-term medical care they need.
Source: Marines who suffered brain injuries doubled risk of PTSD, study finds, "The Los Angeles Times" Alan Zarembo, Dec. 12, 2013