Traumatic brain injury is pervasive in both civilian and military populations. In fact, TBI in the civilian population is eight times as frequent as breast cancer, AIDS, spinal-cord injury, and multiple sclerosis combined. According to the Center for Deployment Psychology, an estimated 10–20% of all service members who served in operations Iraqi Freedom and Enduring Freedom sustained a TBI, with most being concussions, or mild TBIs — mild TBIs are also sometimes called concussions.
1. You cannot have a TBI without loss of consciousness.
Historically, there has been some disagreement about the need for loss of consciousness to be able to diagnose TBI.
2. My Kevlar will prevent the worst head injuries.
There have been many changes in modern warfare that are impacting today’s warfighter.
3. If there is no bleeding, you do not have to worry about having a TBI.
There are different types of traumatic brain injuries, particularly open (penetrating) and closed (blunt) head wounds.
4. If the person looks fine after a blast or impact, then they are fine.
While a person could be fine after a blast, it is also possible for a person with a TBI to be walking, talking, and conscious after the blast or impact.
5. Mild TBIs are not that debilitating.
TBIs, including mild TBIs, can have subtle, but long-lasting and pervasive consequences for neurological and psychological functioning.
6. If a TBI does not show up in brain imaging, then it does not exist.
Neuroimaging can be helpful, particularly with moderate or severe cases of TBI.
7. Recovery from TBI is a straightforward, quick process.
While most individuals with a concussion or mild TBI achieve full recovery within a couple of days to a month, there are individual differences in recovery rates and trajectories.
8. If you have a TBI, then you have PTSD, too.
PTSD and TBI have a lot of overlapping symptoms, and frequently co-occur with one another.
9. Neuropsychological testing will not be that helpful for someone who has a TBI.
Neuropsychological testing can provide individuals with information about changes in their cognitive functioning, their strengths and weakness, and information about strategies to help offset their weaknesses.
10. Individuals with TBI can no longer work, or would at least require lots of expensive accommodations.
Individuals with TBI can still work and be effective employees in a wide variety of different jobs, including military jobs. Work accommodations are often in the best interest of both the employee and employer.
In conclusion, there are many misconceptions about traumatic brain injury that contribute to misunderstanding of both the injury and individuals with the injury. Becoming aware of these myths may help friends and employers to better understand what is going on for someone who experienced a TBI.