FamilyOfaVet - Real world info about PTSD, TBI, & life after combat
FamilyOfaVet - Real World info about PTSD, TBI, & life after combat.

What is Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI)?

A simplified explanation of Traumatic Brain Injury is this...

Why do you look inside a carton of eggs before you buy it?  Because even though the
outside of the carton may seem perfectly normal and intact, one of the eggs inside may be

The same holds true for TBI.  Your Veteran's head may show no signs of being injured, but
the inside (his or her brain) may in fact be damaged.

Our brains are surrounded by a layer of fluid (called the cerebrospinal fluid or CSF).  
Basically, our brains are floating in CSF.  When a blast from a RPG, IED, VBIED, mortar, or
other explosion occurs nearby, the power of that blast rocks the brain around inside of the
skull.  This powerful rocking can cause damage to the brain.  This damage is known as
Traumatic Brain Injury.

TBI as defined by the Brain Injury Association of America...

A traumatic brain injury (TBI) is defined as a blow or jolt to the head or a penetrating head
injury that disrupts the function of the brain. Not all blows or jolts to the head result in a TBI.
The severity of such an injury may range from "mild," i.e., a brief change in mental status
or consciousness to "severe," i.e., an extended period of unconsciousness or amnesia
after the injury. A TBI can result in short or long-term problems with independent function.

Why Traumatic Brain Injury is so common in OIF/OEF Veterans...

The main reason so many Veterans are returning with some form of TBI is because the
extent of this damage can be compounded (worsened) with each blast attack.  The brain
doesn't have time to recover from one injury before it is "hit" with another.  While there isn't
any data that we've been able to find which indicates the average number of blasts
someone serving in Iraq or Afghanistan is involved in, I can say that of the all of the
soldiers our family knows, I can't think of one who has been involved in less than 5 blast
incidents.  Many have sustained
far more than that.  Current estimates are that 20% - 33%
of our Veterans have Traumatic Brain Injury (400,000 - 660,000 returning heroes).

The different "levels" of TBI...

There are three levels of TBI - Mild Traumatic Brain Injury (MTBI), Moderate Traumatic
Brain Injury, and
Severe Traumatic Brain Injury.

MTBI is often called a concussion.  Many Veterans who have suffered a MTBI will recover
completely or at least mostly recover.  Their symptoms may only last for a few weeks or
months or may persist throughout their lifetime.  

"Permanent disability is thought to occur in 10% of mild injuries, 66% of moderate injuries,
and 100% of severe injuries.  Most
mild TBI is completely resolved within three weeks, and
almost all people with mild TBI are able to live independently return to the jobs they had
before the injury, although a portion have mild cognitive and social impairments.  Over 90%
of people with
moderate TBI are able to live independently, although a portion require
assistance in areas such as physical abilities, employment, and financial managing.  The
results of traumatic brain injury vary widely in type and duration. Even mild traumatic brain
injury can result in disabilities that interfere with social interactions, employment, and
everyday living. Head trauma can cause problems a variety of problems including physical,
cognitive, emotional, and behavioral ones.

Patients with mild to moderate head injuries who experience cognitive deficits may become
easily confused or distracted and have problems with concentration and attention. They
may also have problems with higher level, executive functions, such as planning,
organizing, abstract reasoning, problem solving, and making judgments, which may make it
difficult to resume pre-injury activities. Recovery from cognitive deficits is greatest within
the first six months after the injury and more gradual after that.  Patients with moderate to
severe TBI have more problems with cognitive deficits than patients with mild TBI, but a
history of several mild TBIs may have an additive effect." (
from Wikipedia's article on
Traumatic Brain Injury.)

The diagnostic criteria for MTBI...

If after a blast incident your Veteran experienced any of the following, he or she did sustain
Mild Traumatic Brain Injury.  This damage may or may not still affect them, but it is
important that this injury be identified so that you (and your Veteran) are aware of the need
to watch for future issues that any TBI can cause or aggravate.

According to the Brain Injury Association of America, "A patient with mild traumatic brain
injury is a person who has had a traumatically induced physiological disruption of brain
function, as manifested by at least one of the following:

  1. Any period of loss of consciousness;
  2. Any loss of memory for events immediately before or after the accident;
  3. Any alteration in mental state at the time of the accident (e.g., feeling dazed,
    disoriented, or confused); and
  4. Focal neurological deficit(s) that may or may not be transient; but where the severity
    of the injury does not exceed the following: • loss of consciousness of approximately
    30 minutes or less; • after 30 minutes, an initial Glasgow Coma Scale (GCS) of 13-
    15; and • posttraumatic amnesia (PTA) not greater than 24 hours."

This article was written by Brannan Vines, the proud wife of an OIF veteran and founder of  To contact Brannan, you can reach her by e-mail (brannan -at-
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This page dedicated to helping Veterans and their loved ones learn more about Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI).
Pages in Our TBI Section:
What is TBI?  -  TBI Symptoms  - Recognizing TBI in Your Spouse  -  TBI Websites welcomes and encourages the off-line distribution of content from its website through appropriate channels but no use is granted without our specific permission. Please contact us by e-mail at Permissions -at- stating the specific content to be used and place and means of off-line distribution. Webmasters, bloggers, etc., wishing to use a limited amount of content from our site for non-commercial, on-line purposes may do so as long as a backlink to our site is provided. © Copyright 2007 - / Family Of a Vet, Inc. All rights reserved.
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