Soldier’s TBI May Be Implicated in Afghanistan Massacre
By Ellen Schnakenberg—March 13, 2012

It has been revealed that the US soldier allegedly responsible for the nighttime massacre of 16 Afghanistan civilians in their homes on Sunday suffered a past Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI). The soldier, who was on his fourth deployment at the time of the incident, was reportedly in a rollover accident in 2010 and treated for TBI.

At this time it is unclear whether his TBI played a part in the heinous incident, and the public is cautioned that it is premature to positively state that his alleged actions were the result of his TBI.

It is unfortunate that we will no-doubt see discussion of this link as fact. While we await the true facts to be released, it does create good discussion on a topic that is too often dismissed, not only for our soldiers but for those in the general public who suffer TBI.

In light of what happened to this soldier in 2010 and his alleged victims in 2012, I want to take a few moments to remind readers about what we historically speaking, have only fairly recently learned about TBI:

  • TBI can happen even without an exterior blow to the head or a concussion
  • The effects of TBI can be transient or long lasting, and can include increased number of or more severe Migraine
    attacks as well as Chronic Daily Headache (CDH)
  • TBI often results in *broken connections* within the brain that can reveal themselves as mental dysfunction
    including but not limited to mood disorders, psychiatric disturbance (including aggression and inhibition) and
    Cognitive difficulties

2009 estimates indicated of the 1.5 million Americans estimated to survive TBI each year, only about 10% of them suffer ongoing problems as a result of their injury. In the case of disrupted brain circuitry, the damage is likely permanent and treatment is often necessary.

A new 2012 study published in the journal Headache found that (CDH) resembling chronic Migraine was 4-5 times higher in veterans after a concussion than the general population, and strongly associated with increased risk of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD).

Because of fear and stigma re: mental illness and Migraine, it’s likely that many TBI patients choose to try to live silently with their symptoms instead of seeking help they may need to function in society. In the case of soldiers, seeking help often means losing their jobs and an uncertain future. The emotional distress created by stigma and uncertainty can exacerbate an already fragile condition, perhaps to the point of breakdown.

How do you think we can help to eliminate the stigma associated with TBI injuries and the associated neurologic and psychiatric fallout that results

Profile photo of Ellen Schnakenberg

About Ellen Schnakenberg

Migraine.com’s patient educator/advocate, writer and community leader Ellen, is a lifelong Migraineur. She has been chronic since the mid 1990′s.

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