- The Washington Times - Wednesday, May 10, 2017

New treatment methods are needed for U.S. servicemen who have suffered even a mild concussion during their tours in Iraq or Afghanistan as negative health effects are shown to continue for at least five years after the initial injury, the National Institutes of Health said in a statement Wednesday.

Their conclusion came on the heels of a study published last week in the Journal of the American Medical Association Neurology that found negative health affects continued for at least five years in U.S. military personnel who suffered even mild concussions during their service in Iraq or Afghanistan.

The study was published last week and was funded by the National Institutes of Health and the Department of Defense.

In addition to mental-health symptoms, concussed servicemen reported decreases in quality of life for at least five years after their injury, the report said.

“This is one of the first studies to connect the dots from injury to longer-term outcomes, and it shows that even mild concussions can lead to long-term impairment and continued decline in satisfaction with life,” lead author Christine Mac Donald, an associate professor in the Department of Neurological Surgery at the University of Washington School of Medicine in Seattle, said in an NIH statement.

Researchers followed 50 servicemen who suffered mild-traumatic brain injuries in Iraq or Afghanistan for five years from the initial incident. A control group of 44 servicemen who were deployed but not wounded was used as a comparison.

The study found that “satisfaction with life, global disability, neurobehavioral symptom severity, psychiatric symptom severity and sleep impairment were worse in patients” who had experienced mild concussions compared to the control group.

The study found that adverse neurological symptoms one year after the injury was “highly predictive of poor outcomes five years later,” and included walking ability and verbal fluency.

“Most physicians believe that patients will stabilize 6-12 months post-injury, but this study challenges that, showing progression of post-concussive symptoms well after this time frame,” Ms. Mac Donald added.

The study highlighted that 3.5 million individuals in the U.S. are affected by a traumatic brain injury, caused by a “mild or concussive” event. For US servicemen serving in Iraq or Afghanistan, 20 percent of those deployed suffered a head injury, with 83.3% enduring a mild, uncomplicated traumatic brain injury or concussion, the authors wrote.

“We need to identify effective, long-term treatment strategies that will help these brave men and women enjoy the highest quality of life possible following their service to our country,” said Dr. Walter Koroshetz, director of National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke, in the statement.

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