TRICARE Newsroom HomeArticles
NEWS | March 8, 2021

March is Brain Injury Awareness Month; TBICoE’s mission lasts all year

Navy Capt. (Dr.) Scott Pyne sees March’s Brain Injury Awareness Month as an opportunity to highlight what the Traumatic Brain Injury Center of Excellence does all year long.

A traumatic brain injury (TBI) is any blow or jolt to the head that disrupts the normal function of the brain. They can have long-lasting effects. Awareness of TBIs - how to identify them, and ways to mitigate them or seek treatment if an individual thinks they may have one - is an important element of maintaining a medically ready force.

Pyne, division chief for the Silver Spring, Maryland-based TBICoE, said that what many people may not realize about TBIs within the DOD is that they occur more often at home than while deployed.

"TBI is a big issue for the military, especially in a deployed environment, but more TBI actually occurs in the non-deployed environment," Pyne said. "It's really important to be careful about TBI and know about it when you're doing average, day-to-day things like driving your car, riding your bike or motorcycle, skiing, or playing sports."

Pyne said he's seen many changes and advancements surrounding the study and understanding of TBI during his career, and this has led to better guidance for everyone.

"I think the biggest difference is in the area of concussions or mild traumatic brain injury, and this has been pushed out to our line leaders, clinicians, patients, service members, and veterans to be aware of the effects of mild traumatic brain injury," Pyne said. "In the past, concussions happened and people knew about them, but they really didn't pay them much mind."

He said that much of the advancement in understanding TBIs is due to the number of studies that have been done on them over the past several decades, as well as developments in science and technology. This has resulted in better awareness and prevention measures.

Pyne cited an example of when he was involved in sports versus his experience with his children.

"It used to be, if you were able to play through them (brain injuries or concussions), you played through them. You were encouraged to," Pyne said. "I think we now have a whole lot more awareness that there are some problems with that, and that numerous concussions may result in some long-term problems that are difficult to bounce back from. That awareness and understanding has really changed from the time that I was young until the time that I was on the sidelines coaching my own kids."

These advancements are also translating into higher recovery rates.

"The advances that we’re making in severe and penetrating and moderate traumatic brain injury are remarkable. People who would never have recovered in the past are now able to do quite well, and that's based on advances in science," Pyne said. "We always knew it was bad, but I don't think we knew how to take care of it as well as we do now."

On the combat side, Pyne said that post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and brain injuries often go hand-in-hand.

"It's very difficult to discern between the two, and I think they need to be evaluated and treated at the same time," Pyne said. "You can have PTSD without having a traumatic brain injury, and you can have a traumatic brain injury without PTSD, but sometimes they come together."

In fact, the TBICoE is studying the interaction between the two.

"We're finding that people who have an isolated traumatic brain injury do a lot better than those that have a traumatic brain injury and PTSD," Pyne said.


Marine Pfc. Daniel Yates, a rifleman with Bravo Company, Battalion Landing Team 1/1, 11th Marine Expeditionary Unit, provides security while conducting a patrol after a simulated airfield seizure mission during a Realistic Urban Training exercise at Marine Corps Air Station Yuma, Arizona, Feb. 21. (Photo by: Marine Sgt. Alexis Flores)

TBIs' impacts on memory and motor skills are also being studied.

"The other thing that we’ve learned quite a bit about is that when injured, people don’t function the same way as they did prior to their TBI. We know that people’s reaction time, their ability to focus, their ability to memorize things are all impacted," Pyne said."

In a combat environment these things have the potential to become life-threatening, both to an individual and those around them.

"On the athletic playing field, that may equate to you not playing well or your team not winning, but obviously the stakes are much higher in the deployed environment, where you not only have to protect yourself, but also your fellow service members," Pyne said.

"At the end of the day, if you get hit in the head and you can’t focus, think clearly, or concentrate, we need to pull you out of whatever game you’re playing, even if it's the game of life, and try to make you better," Pyne said. "So when you go back, you can go back as healthy and as close to functioning at your normal level as you were before you sustained that injury."

Pyne reiterated the fact that most TBIs occur in a non-deployed environment.

"In the DOD, the ways we think about this happening are when we're being shot at or things are blowing up, but things like standard motor vehicle crashes, falls, and sports are where we see a vast majority of concussions among service members," Pyne said.

"How do you prevent those things? You drive the speed limit, you wear a seatbelt or a helmet, and you're careful and aware of your environment."

Pyne said some key points to remember when assessing if you are “TBI-ready” include asking yourself:

  • Are you ready to prevent yourself from getting a TBI?

  • Are you ready to get yourself taken care of in the event you suffer a TBI?

  • Are you ready to take care of someone who may sustain a TBI, especially as a medical provider or a leader?

A simple bump of the head, coupled by "seeing stars," dizziness or confusion could be a concussion or TBI. The key is looking for signs and getting help if you need it.

He also said that, despite the negative discussions surrounding TBIs, most people fully recover from them.

"The vast majority of people who sustain a mild traumatic brain injury make a full recovery," Pyne said "I think we focus too much on the people who don’t get better and we tend to forget all the people who do get better."

The TBICoE also supports a multi-center network of military treatment facilities and Department of Veterans Affairs medical centers with TBI education and research initiatives. An array of resources from TBICoE are available to service members, their families and providers here on the Military Health System website.

Military Health System MHS GENESIS trainer, gives instruction to Air Force Airman

Wave CARSON+ deploys new EHR to 25 more MTF comm...

News
May. 05, 2021

Over the weekend, the Military Health System deployed the MHS GENESIS electronic health record (EHR) to 25...
Read More
Service member opens a locker in the ScriptCenter

ScriptCenter Kiosks Offer Easy Prescription Pick...

News
May. 04, 2021

Are you looking for a simpler way to pick up your TRICARE prescriptions? ScriptCenter automated pharmacy...
Read More
April 26, 2021 Got Your 6 COVID-19 vaccine video

Watch New TRICARE COVID-19 Vaccine Video Series:...

News
Apr. 29, 2021

Have you watched the latest “Got Your 6” video? If not, make sure you check it out. “Got Your 6” is a new...
Read More
Dental technician conducts an X-ray on child patient

TRICARE Dental Program Offers Ways to Protect Yo...

News
Apr. 27, 2021

Did you know tooth decay is one of the most common childhood diseases? According to the Centers for Disease...
Read More
At MHS pharmacies, every day is ‘Drug Take Back Day’

At MHS pharmacies, every day is ‘Drug Take Back ...

News
Apr. 23, 2021

While April 24 has officially been designated National Drug Take Back Day by the Drug Enforcement...
Read More
Service member looks at newborn in spouse's arms

Getting TRICARE for Your Newborn Child

News
Apr. 20, 2021

Are you a soon to be parent? Welcoming a new baby can be exciting and nerve-racking at the same time. If this...
Read More
Tidewater set to become fifth Military Health System market

Tidewater Set to Become Fifth Military Health Sy...

News
Apr. 20, 2021

The Defense Health Agency officially established the Tidewater Market in southeast Virginia on April 19. This...
Read More
Service member takes down COVID-19 vaccination station signage

COVID-19 Vaccine Eligibility Expands for TRICARE...

News
Apr. 19, 2021

Today, the Department of Defense (DOD) officially moved vaccination sites to tier 2 of the DOD Population...
Read More

May 5, 2021

Wave CARSON+ deploys new EHR to 25 more MTF commands

Over the weekend, the Military Health System deployed the MHS GENESIS electronic health record (EHR) to 25 military medical treatment facility (MTFs) commands more sites in 12 states.

May 4, 2021

ScriptCenter Kiosks Offer Easy Prescription Pick Up

Are you looking for a simpler way to pick up your TRICARE prescriptions? ScriptCenter automated pharmacy kiosks and locker systems provide a safe, secure, and controlled way to pick up your prescriptions at certain military hospitals and clinics.

April 29, 2021

Watch New TRICARE COVID-19 Vaccine Video Series: Got Your 6

Have you watched the latest “Got Your 6” video? If not, make sure you check it out. “Got Your 6” is a new TRICARE video series to keep you in the know about the latest on COVID-19.

April 27, 2021

TRICARE Dental Program Offers Ways to Protect Your Child’s Teeth

Did you know tooth decay is one of the most common childhood diseases? According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, about 1 in 5 children ages 5–11 have at least one untreated decayed tooth.

April 23, 2021

At MHS pharmacies, every day is ‘Drug Take Back Day’

While April 24 has officially been designated National Drug Take Back Day by the Drug Enforcement Administration, pharmacists across the Military Health System in recent years have been stressing that every day is a drug take back day.

April 20, 2021

Getting TRICARE for Your Newborn Child

Are you a soon to be parent? Welcoming a new baby can be exciting and nerve-racking at the same time. If this is your first child, you may have questions about doctor visits and health care coverage.

April 20, 2021

Tidewater Set to Become Fifth Military Health System Market

The Defense Health Agency officially established the Tidewater Market in southeast Virginia on April 19. This is the fifth Military Health System market established to manage military medical treatment facilities as they transition to DHA.

April 19, 2021

COVID-19 Vaccine Eligibility Expands for TRICARE Beneficiaries

Today, the Department of Defense (DOD) officially moved vaccination sites to tier 2 of the DOD Population Schema. This means all eligible or authorized TRICARE beneficiaries and DOD individuals can make an appointment to get the COVID-19 vaccine at DOD sites as it becomes available.

April 15, 2021

Projects Test New Approaches to Improve Health Care Quality, Outcomes

TRICARE has more than a half-dozen pilots and demonstration projects underway that offer new and innovative medical services, treatments, and approaches, and that have the potential to become part of its permanent health care coverage.

April 15, 2021

Activate Your New TRICARE Prescriptions with Remote Pharmacy Check-In

Do you get your prescriptions filled at a military pharmacy? If so, make sure you look into Remote Pharmacy Check-In using Q-Anywhere.

Learn More about COVID-19 and the COVID-19 Vaccine.