Impact of Brain Trauma on U.S. Servicemen and Women

It has long been understood that many military veterans suffer from life altering mental illnesses or conditions such as post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). Recently, researchers have found a new and more serious mental condition that could be affecting thousands of our servicemen and women, chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE).

CTE is a neurodegenerative brain disorder often found in athletes, military veterans, and others with a history of repetitive brain trauma. The condition is characterized by the development of abnormal protein deposits in brain tissue that eventually kill brain cells. CTE can be diagnosed by analyzing brain tissue and only can be done post-mortem. Those effected can show symptoms such as cognitive impairment, impulsive behavior, depression, short-term memory loss, emotional instability, and suicidal thoughts or behavior. Recently, the effects of CTE have gained awareness due to its impact on the lives of formal professional football players. The Chicago Bears safety Dave Duerson, Philadelphia Eagles safety Andre Watters, and Pittsburgh Steelers offensive lineman Terry Young were diagnosed with CTE after they ended up taking their own lives.

A research team from Boston University, New York Medical College, and the Veterans Affairs Boston Healthcare system recently published a study on CTE. For their study, the researchers examined the brain tissue of four deceased military veterans who were injured by a blast or had a concussive injury. The brain tissue of the military veterans was compared to that of four athletes with a history of concussive injury and four control subjects with no history of concussive injuries. They found that the brain tissue of the military veterans was indistinguishable from the athletes.

Military servicemen and women are especially vulnerable because a single blast from a typical improvised explosive device (IED) can result in CTE and the long-term brain impairments that accompany the disease. An IED’s initial shock wave of high air pressure and the secondary “blast wind” can cause brain damage leading to CTE. Since 2001, over 2.3 million service members have served and it is believed that the traumatic brain injury caused by explosive blasts can afflict up to 20 percent.

If you or someone you know has been injured by the negligent act of another, contact an attorney at Abraham, Watkins, Nichols, Agosto, Aziz & Stogner by calling (713) 222-7211 or toll free at 713-222-7211.