By now, most of us in Kentucky know about the risk of brain injury in sports such as football, boxing, and hockey. We’ve also heard that those athletes that sustain multiple head injuries may be more likely to commit suicide.

Now, research suggests that multiple traumatic brain injuries (TBIs) among military service members predict a higher risk of suicide throughout life.

Looking at the Numbers

Craig Bryan is assistant professor of psychology at the University of Utah and associate director of the National Center for Veterans Studies, also at the university. He conducted a study on the suicidal thoughts of active-duty soldiers who served in Iraq in 2009 and had sustained TBIs while deployed.

Bryan discovered that nearly 22 percent of soldiers who received more than one TBI in their lifetime reported having thoughts of suicide or being preoccupied with suicide. This is significantly more than the 6 percent of patients with one TBI. Soldiers that had experienced no TBIs reported no suicidal thoughts.

TBIs Prior to Battle

In many cases, the service members had sustained TBIs before entering the military. Often, these young people had received head injuries while playing sports in high school. Some of the soldiers had had as many as six head injuries before joining the military. About 20 percent suffered concussions while in basic training.

Bryan speculated that the injuries sustained before they entered the service created a “preexisting vulnerability that gets activated” when another head injury occurs in combat. Some service members receive as many as 15 TBIs during deployment. Usually, the soldiers Bryan studied had received their head injury during an improvised explosive device (IED) attack.

The Rising Military Suicide Rate

The suicide rate in all five branches of the military continues to rise. In 2011, the death toll was 303 active-duty military personnel, which is nearly one each day; a year later, it had increased to 349.

Although approximately 85 percent of military personnel who commit suicide have not been in combat or been deployed, Bryan’s study indicates that TBIs may contribute to suicides in the 15 percent who have been in combat.

Sports and combat are not the only causes of traumatic brain injury. If the actions of another person have caused your loved one’s brain injury in Kentucky, contact Gray and White Law in Louisville. Call us at 502-210-8942 or toll free at 888-450-4456 to set up a FREE, no-obligation consultation.

Mark K. Gray
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Louisville attorney serving the seriously injured in Kentucky