Defense and Veterans Brain Injury Center (DVBIC), a center of Defense Centers of Excellence for Psychological Health and Traumatic Brain Injury (DCoE), hosted the 8th Annual Blast Injury Conference Dec. 14, 2011, in Tampa, Fla. The event covered topics such as current care efforts of blast injury, new technology to improve treatment of traumatic brain injury (TBI), blast testing methods and how families can be affected by TBI.
Dr. Steven Scott, medical director of James A. Haley Veterans’ Hospital’s Polytrauma Rehabilitation Center in Tampa, gave opening remarks and helped organize the conference. Scott has been integral to the annual event since it began as a session at the Special Operations Medical Association conference in 2004. It has since grown to a full-day event, bringing together TBI and psychological health care experts from around the world, as well as those invested in TBI and psychological care and treatment in the military community.
“When the conference first originated eight years ago, we were seeing injuries from the wars, but recognized that the community and providers often didn’t really know what blast injury was,” he said. “Realizing the uniqueness of this injury, we made the conference a one-day event so we can educate our people working in care settings on advanced knowledge on blast injury.”
In her presentation “Mild Traumatic Brain Injury: Continuum of Care,” Army Col. Jamie Grimes, DVBIC director, discussed pre-deployment prevention and education training for service members on concussion, such as an Army campaign to teach soldiers and units how to identify, care for and track cases of mild TBI, which includes mandatory classes on the basics of the injury.
New technology was the focus of the presentation “Improving Function through Use of the Functional Electrical Stimulation Hand Glove 200.” Scott and a team of researchers from Haley Veterans’ Hospital discussed how the electrical glove delivered electrical stimulation to finger extensors and flexors attached to parts of the hand. The glove, invented by a scientist who spent 10 years as a robotic engineer for films, strengthened muscle, reduced spasticity, pain and swelling in hands that have decreased function as a result of TBI.
Dr. Jeanette Betancourt, vice president of outreach and educational practices with Sesame Workshop, the nonprofit organization behind Sesame Street, discussed the impact of TBI on military families. She listed their resources to help military families communicate when there is a psychological health care issue, such as their website www.familiesnearandfar.org.
The conference marked another year where top minds in TBI furthered knowledge on the many concerns surrounding the injury in the military.
“There’s a lot we’re learning every day about blast injuries. This injury has a significant effect on the whole person and their family, and it needs a whole team community behind rehabilitation,” said Scott.