Many have noted the association between traumatic brain injuries (TBI) and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) among veterans. Now, there are findings that confirm military personnel who suffer TBI during active duty are at a significantly heightened risk of developing PTSD over time.
The study, led by researchers from the Veterans Affairs San Diego Healthcare System and University of California, San Diego School of Medicine, also found pre-deployment PTSD symptoms and high combat intensity were notable factors in developing PTSD, as Emily Johnson reports.
Dr. Dewleen G. Baker, rsearch director at the VA Center of Excellence for Stress and Mental Health in San Diego and progessor in the Department of Psychiatry at the University of California, San Diego, led the study. Baker and her colleagues evaluated 1,648 active-duty U.S. Marines and Navy veterans from four infantry battalions of the First Marine Division based at Camp Pendleton.
The researchers evaluated the military personnel at four specific points: approximately a month before a scheduled seven-month deployment to Iraq or Afghanistan, one week after returning from deployment, three months later, and finally six months after deployment.
“Pre-deployment psychiatric symptoms, the intensity of the combat experience and a deployment-related traumatic brain injury were all significant predictors of post-deployment PTSD symptom severity,” said Baker. “However, the strongest predictor was deployment-related TBI.”
Traumatic brain injuries are often called the signature injury of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, and estimates claim as many as one-fifth of all active-duty military personnel suffer brain injuries during their time deployed to these countries.
In Baker’s study of active-duty Marines, more than 50 percent reported having at least one TBI prior to the study and nearly 20 percent reported sustaining one during deployment.