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Five Clinical Tools To Help Assess and Treat TBI

Image of An Army 'gun team' brace for the concussion of a 105mm howitzer during operations in Iraq in 2008. (Photo: Master Sgt. Kevin Doheny). An Army 'gun team' brace for the concussion of a 105mm howitzer during operations in Iraq in 2008. (Photo: Army Master Sgt. Kevin Doheny)

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Traumatic Brain Injury

Traumatic Brain Injury, or TBI, is a major health concern for the military. Over the past two decades, nearly 450,000 service members have suffered a first-time TBI. While some occur in a deployed setting, the majority happen closer to home – during training, sports, recreation, car accidents, or slips and falls.

Left untreated, even mild TBIs can have serious long-term complications. TBIs, also known as concussions, can affect mental health, impacting mission readiness and the ability to deploy.

But there is hope. TBI is treatable. With appropriate care, service members can expect a full recovery. The Military Health System offers the following tools and clinical recommendations to help providers in the identification, treatment and management of mild TBI.

1. Dizziness and Vision following Concussion/Mild TBI Clinical Recommendation

Dizziness and visual problems are among the most common symptoms after a mild TBI. In November 2021, the Traumatic Brain Injury Center of Excellence released the Dizziness and Visual Disturbances Clinical Recommendation. It's a vital tool for primary care managers treating mild TBIs. It provides a single, comprehensive reference for the assessment and management of dizziness and visual problems following concussions.

Providers should perform a visual and dizziness assessment. Learn more here.

2. Military Acute Concussion Evaluation 2

The MHS provides tools to quickly assess and diagnose service members with a potential TBI. The Military Acute Concussion Evaluation 2, or MACE 2, is a step-by-step tool that medical personnel can use to diagnose a possible concussion at the scene of an injury.

The TBICoE helped design the MACE 2 to improve care for service members. Users in the field can screen in for common symptoms, cognitive deficits, and neurological signs of a concussion. The latest version of the MACE 2 also assesses balance and eye motion.

Learn more here.

3. Progressive Return to Activity following Acute Concussion/Mild TBI

Service members should avoid returning to duty too soon after a concussion. That can lead to prolonged symptoms, poor marksmanship, decreased readiness, accidents and falls, and increased risk of more concussions.

To help determine when it's time to return to duty, military health care providers can use a tool known as the Progressive Return to Activity Following Acute Concussion (PRA). It helps ensure a safe return to full duty. The TBICoE developed the tool in collaboration with military service branches, an expert working group, and an end user group.

The PRA involves a six-step return to activity protocol. It helps service members to manage their symptoms and ensure a full recovery. Returning to duty gradually helps reduce long term complications.

Learn more here.

4. Sleep Disturbances following Concussion/Mild TBI Clinical Recommendation

Sleeping problems are common with mild TBI. The most common include insomnia, obstructive sleep apnea, circadian rhythm sleep-wake disorders, and restless legs syndrome. Early treatment of sleeping problems can promote recovery and prevent chronic TBI symptoms.

TBICoE's Sleep Disturbances following Concussion/Mild TBI Clinical Recommendation provides step-by-step guidance to help primary care managers assess and manage sleeping problems linked to mild TBI. The recommendation includes guidelines for medical dosing, specialty referral timelines, and more detailed information for treating sleeping problems like restless legs syndrome, insufficient sleep syndrome, and parasomnias.

Learn more here.

5. Cognitive Rehabilitation following Mild to Moderate TBI

The Cognitive Rehabilitation following Mild to Moderate TBI Clinical Recommendation helps providers to treat service members and veterans with persistent cognitive challenges like memory and attention problems. Evaluating a patient with those symptoms is especially challenging because they can overlap with other problems like post-traumatic stress or depression. The clinical recommendation ensures consistency in cognitive rehabilitation practices across MHS hospitals and clinics.

Learn more here.

The MHS is committed to protecting the brain health of our service members. These are just a few clinical tools out of many that the MHS is using to better identify, care for, and treat service members and veterans who are affected by TBI.

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Help With Ongoing Symptoms Following Concussion/Mild TBI Fact Sheet

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4/28/2021

Although the majority of service members recover from concussion with little to no intervention, some experience symptoms beyond the first three months after their initial injury. This fact sheet addresses why symptoms continue to persist in some patients and how they can cope or seek additional help.

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Vision Problems After Concussion Fact Sheet

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3/30/2021

This TBICoE fact sheet helps patients diagnosed with a concussion/mild TBI understand vision problems and provides insight into treatment options.

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What You Should Know About Concussions Fact Sheet

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3/30/2021

This fact sheet is designed to educate deployed service members about traumatic brain injuries immediately after concussion injury.

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Heads Up; Sports Safety

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8/6/2020

This fact sheet provides sports safety tips to prevent or minimize sports-related traumatic brain injury. It also includes the signs and symptoms of TBI, and how to get help if you think you sustained a brain injury.

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Ride Right Fact Sheet

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8/6/2020

This bicycle safety fact sheet provides tips to protect your head and help prevent TBI while riding a bike. It also includes the signs and symptoms of TBI, and how to get help if you think you sustained a brain injury.

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Respect the Road

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8/6/2020

One of the leading causes of military traumatic brain injury is motor vehicle crashes. This car safety fact sheet provides tips to help prevent TBI while driving a motor vehicle and safety measures to take to keep passengers safe. It also includes the signs and symptoms of TBI, and how to get help if you think you sustained a brain injury.

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Head Check: Know Your Helmet, Bicycle and Motorcycle

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8/6/2020

A Head for the Future aims to raise awareness about TBI among service members, veterans and their families. This fact sheet provides tips for choosing the right helmet for the right ride, with information about different safety features in helmets for bicycling and riding motorcycles.

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Cruise with Control

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8/6/2020

One of the leading causes of military traumatic brain injury is motor vehicle crashes. This fact sheet provides tips on how to stay safe on motorcycles to help prevent TBI while riding. It also includes the signs and symptoms of TBI, and how to get help if you think you sustained a brain injury.

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Head Check: Know Your Helmet, Winter Sports

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8/6/2020

A Head for the Future aims to raise awareness about TBI among service members, veterans and their families. This fact sheet provides tips for choosing the right helmet for the right sport, with information about different safety features in helmets for skiing, snowboarding and snowmobiling.

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Head Check: Know Your Helmet, Football and Baseball

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8/6/2020

A Head for the Future aims to raise awareness about TBI among service members, veterans and their families. This fact sheet provides tips for choosing the right helmet for the right sport, with information about different safety features in helmets for football and baseball.

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TBI Awareness Fact Sheet

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7/30/2020

This fact sheet describes the main causes of traumatic brain injury and the importance of prompt and proper treatment.

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Neck Pain Following Concussion/mTBI Fact Sheet

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7/30/2020

Neck pain can occur together with headaches following a concussion. This TBICoE fact sheet provides information to help patients manage neck pain. Various techniques are explained, including the use of heat or cold therapy, neck stretches, proper sleep positions and common activities that may contribute to neck strain.

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Ways to Improve Your Memory Following Concussion/mTBI Fact Sheet

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7/30/2020

This TBICoE fact sheet can be used by health care providers to educate patients with concussion, or mild traumatic brain injury, on how to manage memory problems related to their injury.

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Concussion/Mild TBI Signs and Symptoms Spanish Version Fact Sheet

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7/30/2020

This fact sheet — in Spanish — identifies major physical, cognitive and emotional symptoms of concussion/mild TBI, and provides coping and recovery tips.

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Leader Policy Guidance for Mild TBI/Concussion in the Deployed Setting Fact Sheet

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7/30/2020

This document describes the line leader responsibilities for the Department of Defense (DOD) mandated policy, DOD Instruction 6490.11, “DOD Policy Guidance for the Management of Mild Traumatic Brain Injury/Concussion in the Deployed Setting,” that applies to all service members involved in potentially concussive events in deployed settings.

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Last Updated: March 21, 2022

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