Psychological scars linger after combat concussions, study says

Symptoms from a wartime TBI can be both long-lasting and shifting, new research suggests.


It’s been well-established that concussions and other brain trauma have lingering and serious effects. But a new study discovered a change over time in the symptoms soldiers experience after head injuries from exposure to explosive devices. Cognitive symptoms seem to mostly resolve within the first five years, but psychological effects persist.


The study monitored 94 service members who saw combat in Afghanistan (50 who had experienced concussive blast TBIs and 44 who had not) and assessed them one year and five years after the injury. The research team noted an “evolution rather than resolution of symptoms” between the two evaluations.


By the five-year mark, the two groups in the study showed similar cognitive function (memory and thinking), but the TBI sufferers showed more signs of continued psychological damage than those without. Over 80 percent of those who had suffered TBIs sought treatment by mental health professionals between the evaluations, as opposed to only 40 percent from the other group.


Preventing head injuries in our deployed troops could spare them years if not lifetimes of struggles and pain, and the need for safer heads in the line of duty has never been clearer. The difference a concussion makes is too great to ignore.


*Scientists have no conclusive evidence as to whether or how the reduction of g-forces during impacts reduces the number or degree of concussions and head injuries. GelDefender products provide supplemental padding as well as cooling and comfort benefits when used with helmets and caps. Participants in activities in which head impacts can occur should always use tested and approved helmets for protection. However, no helmet or supplemental padding can protect the user from all serious head or neck injuries that can result from impacts.