Discussing the genesis of the study, Combs said: “We decided to investigate the cognitive impairment associated with mild TBI when it is combined with PTSD because, in the literature, far less is known about when both of those problems are combined.”
“Most of our veterans returning from the conflicts overseas have both of them, so it’s hugely important for us to be able to investigate that on a large scale,” she added.
The researchers analyzed data from 251 US veterans of the Operation Iraqi Freedom and Operation Enduring Freedom conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan.
Of these, 116 had no history of deployment-related TBI or PTSD (control participants), 53 had a history of deployment mild TBI, 32 had current PTSD, and 50 had a history of deployment mild TBI and PTSD (combined).
Combs commented that, in some respects, these findings of worse outcomes in the combined group were surprising.
“The literature to this point has said that when you have both mild traumatic brain injury and PTSD, it really doesn’t look too different than just when you have PTSD alone,” she said.