Mild traumatic brain injury (mTBI) among UK military personnel whilst deployed in Afghanistan in 2011

Norman Jones, Nicola T Fear, Roberto Rona, Mohammed Fertout, Gursimran Thandi, Simon Wessely, Neil Greenberg
Brain Injury 2014, 28 (7): 896-9

INTRODUCTION: mTBI has been termed the 'signature injury' of recent conflicts in Afghanistan and Iraq. Most mTBI research uses retrospective accounts of exposure and point of injury symptoms; mTBI is reportedly less common among UK than US Forces.

METHODS: This study examined the rate of mTBI exposure and symptoms in 1363 UK military personnel deployed in Afghanistan in 2011 using a self-report questionnaire. Data were collected in the operational location during the 5th month of a 6-month deployment. Personnel reported injuries and symptoms related to six events including fragmentation, blast, bullet, fall, motor vehicle accident and 'other' exposure.

RESULTS: Eighty (5.9%) reported at least one potential mTBI exposure during the current deployment and 1.6% (n = 22) reported injury and one or more mTBI symptoms (1 year incidence rate = 3.2%). Higher PTSD symptom scores were significantly associated with reporting potential mTBI (p ≤ 0.001) and mTBI with symptoms (p ≤ 0.001).

CONCLUSION: This study used contemporaneous data gathered in the deployed location which are subject to less memory distortion than studies using post-deployment recall. The incidence of mTBI was substantially lower than those reported in both US and UK post-deployment studies which is consistent with inflated reporting of symptoms when measured post-deployment.

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