mTBI – ‘stealth’ brain trauma

April 22, 2009 · Filed Under This & That · Comment 


Unlike all other wars, body armor has kept most soldiers alive, improvised explosive devices (known as IEDs) cause up to 60% of American military injuries in Iraq. ied-blast

Multiple IED blast exposures. What does that mean? Improvised (made up…) explosives, clusters of anti-tank explosives jolting a Humvee off the road; buried IEDs; IED propelled shrapnel, nails, objects; RPGs (rocket-propelled grenade).

Symptoms of a mild Traumatic Brain injury: (with or without PTSD): concussion, headaches, nausea, garbled hearing, insomnia, memory lapses. Concussion symptoms usually supposed to clear up in a few weeks or months, but can continue on one, two, three years later and more.

Statistics, during 2006 – among the 2,500 soldiers who returned from 12 month tours, 62 % reported 2 or >2 explosions (blasts), 2 %, suffered gunshot wounds.

Researchers have been looking at an unaccounted-for mechanism in the blast itself that appears to be causing hidden brain injuries.

Ibolja Cernak, neuroscientist and medical director, Johns Hopkins University’s Applied Physics Laboratory believes that blasts have more effect than only to the head. In a blast, shock waves also compress the torso causing pressure waves to ripple through blood vessels …rushing into the brain and damaging tissue.

Colonel Geoffrey Ling, Army neurologist, concurs there is probably more to war-zone head trauma than the blunt forces that occur similarly during an automobile accident or football collision. His theory pinpoints specifically, electromagnetic pulses as one possible culprit. Dr. Ling contends that blasts emit intense magnetic fields that may damage brain cells.

In 2008 the National Institutes of Neurological Disorders and Stroke called together more than 100 doctors, neuroscientists, physicists and biomechanical engineers to review ‘blast-related’ brain injuries.

The Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency, or Darpa, has been investigating blast brain injuries and their effects, led by Col. Ling, from chemical and structural alterations to the resulting behavioral symptoms.

The question in debate … does damage to the head, whether direct or indirect result in long-term neurological problems? There are so many young vital lives waiting for us to uncover the answers.


**all links will open in a new window.

Understanding Traumatic Brain Injury:

This 29-minute video, introduced by General Colin L. Powell, USA (Ret.), offers an introduction to TBI, a health issue affecting at least 1.4 million Americans each year. It features the recovery journeys of several service personnel and their families. VIDEO TRANSCRIPT [pdf]

fulltext1CLICK Here to view NEW References! 

epoint “The Wounds Within” Dept. of Defense Video – War Trauma (PTSD/TBI). 

WARNING: The video contains real combat footage which some viewers may find disturbing! 


yellow-82nd-ribbon Karen, Proud Army Airborne Mom


Karen Estrada, MS  

Military Health Matters Resource Center



Hello, from a proud Army Airborne Mom…

April 15, 2009 · Filed Under This & That · 3 Comments 

Hi LAW, thank you for such a warm welcome! I am happy to be blogging with you all and hope my posts will provide information, inspiration and some humor. 

My eldest is a SFC (mortars) in the 82nd ABN, currently in the OIF Sandbox…4th deployment (3 Iraq, 1 Afghanistan, 1 New Orleans). My younger son, a SPC currently Med Boarding out. What I will tell you is ‘Airborne Holding’ is far worse than med boarding!

I have run a support group for 3rd BCT, 82nd Airborne families since the 3rd BCT was formed (Army unit reformations, 2006). Prior I was co-moderator of 82nd Airborne “Family & Friends” Group (2003).  Since my son’s enlistment I have provided medical /health information to military health care professionals, family members and soldiers/military members themselves both stateside and deployed. I started “militaryhealthmatters”, an on-line resource that provides information and resources on a variety of health issues affecting our service men and women. (this is not a ‘per click site’, I pay to have the site hosted (no advertisements). The resource site also has an accompanying blog (I call it ‘information lite’) and I write for (military health).  

The areas I am most concerned with are PTSD, TBI and mild TBI. We are only beginning to see the ‘tip of the iceberg’ of this issue, as time goes on I believe (based upon studies/research on concussion/brain injuries in athletes) the multiple ‘mild’ brain injuries sustained throughout multiple deployments will manifest themselves three-fold as our current military force ‘ages’. I have written several articles already on mTBI, suicide and PTSD and will share this information with you on this blog too. Currently I am writing a set of articles for the Sarah Jane’s Brain Project from both perspectives, as a military ‘mom’ and as a researcher/analyst.  For those of you familiar with the SJBP you may be wondering about the relationship between ‘pediatric’ brain injuries and our military. Studies and research have shown the brain does not completely finish development until around 25 years of age. Think about the ‘average’ age (more/less) of our service men/women who are serving in combat?

 It is up to each and every one of us …to make sure the attention to this issue and other military health issues does not go ‘away’ for the convenience of a ‘fickle’ public moving on to the next headline.  We need to speak out for those who cannot speak for themselves. 

I do have to share the ‘humorous’ on-line chat/conversation I had with the AKO (Army Knowledge On-line) help desk person earlier this evening (I have a sponsored account, set to expire April 17th). Prior to the account’s expiration your sponsor is notified via AKO e-mail so they can ‘extend’ their sponsorship. Guess where my sponsor is? 

Part A (95%):  the help desk person gives me someone else’s password BUT then proceeds to tell me she ‘could not give me my son’s password” (I didn’t ask for it…), and that “he would need to call or go on-line to give them his ‘permission’ to change/extend the expiration date”.

Normally I might have typed in “duh” but thought better of it …wasn’t it obvious if he could ACCESS a CAC computer he would have just responded to the ‘reminder’ e-mail and extended it! In fact, (I told her)… he can’t even change his password because he can’t access a “CAC” computer!  I think someone in the battalion was supposed to submit ‘paperwork’ to make them all “CAC Exempt” (deployment).  That was probably the same person who ‘mis-placed’ an entire company’s paperwork (the same papers my daughter-in-law needed to submit for base housing), that would probably also be the same person … who didn’t bother sorting the mail two weeks prior to their last deployment (keeping the mailroom locked up as well). 

Part B (4%): Finally getting the AKO help-desk person to let me know what my younger son needed to do in order to ‘approve’ my sponsorship.  

Part C (1%) (after typing thank you, have a very nice evening…  “DU….” :-)

Off to write “Wednesday’s on the Web”     –     Any ideas? What web site would you like me to highlight?



Hug them even if they can’t hug you back.

April 12, 2009 · Filed Under Deployment, Military Parents · Comment 

A New Author – I am very proud to introduce a new author, Karen.  She is an Army Mom (hooah) a medical researcher,data analyst and has been very active in the FRGs for her son’s units.  One son is deployed, one has been injured and is going through that particular hell called Medical Boards. She’s also a very proud Grandma.

Welcome to ParentsZone, Karen.  We are happy to have you here.


Xposted from BlueStarVoices.

My first post…to this blog was going to be scientific with statistics and research data. After all, I am a medical researcher, data analyst, I manage information; constantly seek answers, always curious. This afternoon however, I had a conversation with a mom whose son has TBI and PTSD…and orders to deploy again. Perhaps then, you will indulge my speaking from the heart instead of from ‘my brain’. I guarantee enough of that will be forthcoming.

There is nothing more heartbreaking than to look into your child’s eyes and feel compelled to ask”what have those eyes seen?” And the eyes, well what you see is ‘dead air’.  The definition of Dead air” is “unintended interruption in a broadcast during which the carrier signal is unmodulated-no sound on a radio signal or a black screen on a television signal.”

I’ve asked my son this very question. I imagine many of you have either asked or wanted to ask your son, husband, sister, brother, wife, boyfriend, girlfriend; Army, Air Force, Marines, Navy, National Guard, Reservists…

After my son’s first tour of duty to Iraq, his wife (my daughter-in-law) asked him to tell her “what it was like over there.” His reply was it would be very difficult for her to understand because she had no context in which to do so.

Prior to March while researching and preparing materials for my web site Military Health Matters Resource Center for “Brain Injury Awareness Month” I came upon a set of  presentation/video packages  designed to train senior NCOs and Officers on the proper  identification of TBI, mTBI and PTSD and correct redeployment protocols. We’ve all seen films or documentaries of the wars, videos of IED explosions, combat support hospital operations, or the like but none of these have ever come as close to making the kind of impression these did. They were vignettes or scenarios with real people and real situations.  Agonizing to watch but impossible to turn away from; invoking the very same feelings you may experience while watching a horror movie that never seems to end. Only this isn’t a movie…but it is absolute horror.  I am writing an article on PTSD and TBI that I am subtitling: “the living hell within”. That would be an understatement.

I was very encouraged to hear Secretary Gate’s 2010 budget proposals this week in particular the priority of investment in ‘human’ capital – our kids and loved ones. More on this next time… as soon as my brain returns.

Hug them even if they can’t hug you back.


Proud 82nd ABN Mom