Going without a helmet, having a track hatch fall on your head, or taking a fall during training are common ways a Servicemember sustains a Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI), however, most of these events are never reported. “Shake it off” we tell ourselves. “Take a knee and drink some water. Get back in the game. Keep moving.”
The day-to-day living of a Servicemember or Veteran is far more likely to result in a TBI than from an incident during combat. 80 percent of TBIs in the military are diagnosed in a non-deployment setting (e.g., car crashes, training falls, sports) and the lifestyle and activities of Servicemembers and Veterans (driving motorcycles, riding bicycles, climbing mountains) increase the risk of sustaining a TBI.
No one likes for a minor bump or bruise to slow them down, so “playing hurt” is frequently a part of life for those who have taken the oath to serve our country. However, left undiagnosed and untreated a TBI can have profound effect on the life of Servicemembers, Veteran and their caregivers. This is why Servicemembers and Veterans are screened for TBIs and help is made available for those who have suffered a TBI.
Asking for personal help, especially for a Servicemember or Veteran, can be difficult. Most would rather help than be helped. Asking for help that benefits your family, your team, or to accomplish the mission comes much easier. Getting the help needed for TBI often means putting aside egos and attitudes; and realizing that in order to help others you must first help yourself.
“The drive for me to get help was the fact that how could I tell my guys to go get help if I couldn’t help myself?” said Command Master Chief Dan Marshall. “If I can recommend anything, it would be to start early and start often in seeking help.”
The vast majority of individuals who sustain a mild TBI will completely recover. For those with persistent symptoms, VA has developed a system of care that supports Veterans with an individualized rehabilitation plan of care delivered by an interdisciplinary team of professionals in collaboration with the Veteran and their family.
Recognizing that you need help is an important first step.
The Department of Veterans Affairs Polytrauma System of Care (PSC) is there to provide that help. With five polytrauma rehabilitation centers, 23 polytrauma network sites, and 87 polytrauma support clinic teams across the country, the PSC, in a coordinated effort with the Department of Defense, serves Servicemembers and Veterans in all aspects of TBI care – from trauma to acute rehabilitation to community reintegration and in lifelong care and support.
It was thinking about the larger mission that motivated Command Master Chief Dan Marshall to take action and get the care he needed. As he put it, he “wanted to, one, continue to provide for my family and, two, remember my family.”
Ask your primary care provider about the VA Polytrauma System of Care or learn about us online at www.polytrauma.va.gov.