The sheer magnitude of traumatic brain injury in the military is enough to make anyone’s head hurt. Troops can get TBI from any number of actions. Everything carries a TBI risk, from routine training to combat operations, so it’s no surprise the injury is getting more attention in recent years. The U.S. military has counted the number of TBI cases suffered by its troops since 2000, and the numbers are sadly very big.
More than 383,000 American troops have suffered some form of TBI, either in daily operations or in a theater of combat. What is most startling about the numbers isn’t just how many, it’s how many people in each branch suffered such injuries. Soldiers of the U.S. Army are far more likely to suffer a traumatic brain injury.
While the numbers of overall penetrating and severe TBI are thankfully relatively low, mild injuries make up a bulk of the cases, even when the injuries are broken down by branch. And while “moderate” TBI may not seem as dire as the word “moderate” sounds, those with moderate brain injuries can find themselves with reduced mobility, motor function, and unable to speak effectively. A recent video highlighting caretakers of TBI veterans by AARP Studios and the Elizabeth Dole Foundation highlights just how hard life can be for a victim of moderate TBI.
Unfortunately, moderate brain injuries are the second largest number of injuries suffered by U.S. troops. But the real tragedy is how many TBI sufferers are in the U.S. Army.
Of the more than 383,000 troops that have suffered TBI since 2000, a staggering 225,144 of them have been in some component of the Army. Some 15.8 percent of that was National Guard troops, while 7.3 percent were Army Reserve. The rest, 76.9 percent, were active-duty troops. The numbers on what types of TBI mirror the numbers of all branches put together, with mild being the most widespread, followed by moderate, penetrating, and severe cases.
The rest of the branches hover between 52,000 and 54,000, the Marines have slightly more TBI reports, probably by nature of what they do. This data also reflects an update to the definitions of TBI, more information about the injuries, and subsequent reviews of existing Pentagon data.