Traumatic brain injuries high for Iraq, Afghanistan vets

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(Host) It’s likely that a significant number of Vermonters who have served in the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan are suffering from a condition call Traumatic Brain Injury or TBI.

A soon-to-be published study says nationally, 17% of all returning troops met criteria for exposure to traumatic brain injury.

Researchers say the study of TBI is still in its infancy, but it can take many different forms. Symptoms can range from headaches and nausea to debilitating depression.

In Vermont, there’s an effort to contact all soldiers who’ve served in the war to evaluate them for TBI.

Staff Sergeant Aleria O’Brien was a National Guard medic in Iraq. She’s now part of a team visiting Vermont soldiers to evaluate them for traumatic brain injury. O’Brien says the high incidence of TBI is the result of improvised explosive devices that blew up near the vehicles soldiers were riding in.

(O’Brien) “I can’t tell you how many different soldiers I have personally treated that have been blown up many times, to the point where it’s almost a gallows humor. Fourteen, fifteen, sixteen times this has happened to them and you have to know that down the line there will be repercussions from this.”

(Host) O’Brien says the military is trying to prepare for the large number of soldiers who will likely be diagnosed with traumatic brain injury. She says the fact that there’s much more to be understood about TBI makes accurate diagnosis difficult.

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