Soldiers' Concussions, PTSD Linked
Study Shows Concussions Suffered in Iraq Deployment May Have Link to Posttraumatic Stress Disorder
Jan. 30, 2008 -- U.S. soldiers who sustain concussions while serving in Iraq may
be particularly likely to have physical and mental health problems a few months after coming
That news comes from an Army study of 2,525 soldiers from two combat
brigades who completed a yearlong deployment in Iraq.
Suffering a concussion in Iraq was "strongly associated" with posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and physical
health problems three to four months after returning home, the study says.
Also, PTSD and depression may have played a role in the soldiers'
physical health problems.
The study appears in tomorrow's edition of The New England Journal of
Three to four months after returning home from Iraq, the soldiers completed
an anonymous survey about their combat experiences, injuries,symptoms of posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD),
depression, and physical health problems.
Almost 15% of the soldiers had suffered a concussion in Iraq, including 5%
who lost consciousness and 10% who were dazed and confused or saw stars. An
additional 17% reported other injuries that didn't involve concussions.
Nearly 44% of soldiers who lost consciousness were diagnosed with PTSD,
compared with 27% of those who had concussions but remained conscious, 16% of
soldiers with other injuries, and 9% of uninjured soldiers. Depression also
often accompanied loss-of-consciousness concussions.
Soldiers who had suffered concussions also reported worse health and missed
more days of work.
Hoge's team considered combat factors, including the intensity of the
situation in which the concussions occurred. The psychiatric results held.
But after accounting for PTSD and depression, concussions were no longer
associated with physical health problems.
PTSD and depression may be "important mediators of the relationship
between mild traumatic brain injury [concussion] and physical health
problems," Hoge's team writes.
Based on the findings, an editorial published with the study makes two key
"First, soldiers who have mild traumatic brain injury [concussion] are
at greater risk for health-related problems," writes editorialist Richard
Bryant, PhD. "Second, soldiers should not be led to believe that they have
a brain injury that will result in permanent change," since stress-related
conditions can be managed.
Bryant works for the school of psychology at the University of New South
Wales in Sydney, Australia.