Letter: Traumatic brain injury treatment shunned

From: James Bauerle


The movie “Concussion” shows the struggles the medical world endures to get sound medicine advanced to help millions of people — all because of greed. A medical breakthrough exists today to help those with concussions, traumatic brain injuries and even post-traumatic stress, yet most of the medical world shuns this very effective and safe treatment.

Hyperbaric oxygen therapy is being ignored and in some areas actively discredited as a healing modality for concussions and brain injury. Sports head injuries that cause lasting cognitive and behavioral damage and veterans with traumatic brain injuries and post-traumatic stress from years at war are trying to survive an epidemic of suffering and suicide driven by untreated and often undiagnosed head injuries.

Meanwhile, the medical establishment continues to drag its feet when it comes to healing injured brains with hyperbaric oxygen therapy. Instead, treatment of symptoms with drugs, counseling and cognitive therapy provides little, if any, cure for the underlying physiological and neurological damage.

The suicide epidemic among veterans continues with 22 veterans successful and 44 more trying daily. Most of these veterans suffered traumatic brain injury and post-traumatic stress injuries. Our military elite special operators commit suicide at twice the average. Young women veterans are at 12 times the risk of suicide as their peers.

Traumatic brain injury is one of the leading causes of disability and death in the United States. Nationally, an estimated 2.5 million emergency department visits, hospitalizations or deaths were associated with it. Tens of thousands of head-injured veterans, athletes and members of the public visit emergency rooms and doctors’ offices, and the prescription rendered is bed rest and watchful waiting. They are told they will probably get better. They are almost never told that active intervention and treatment for concussion is available all over the nation.

Dr. George Mychaskiw II, former editor-in-chief of The Journal of Undersea and Hyperbaric Medicine, says: “Hyperbaric oxygen is a safe, easily used treatment that, in many cases, has resulted in a dramatic improvement in the symptoms of patients with [TBI]. Every day we are … gathering more data validating its efficacy. … I feel, as do many of my colleagues, that there is sufficient clinical and research evidence to justify the use of [HBOT] as a standard-of-care treatment for [TBI] that should be reimbursed by Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services and Tricare. … I have no doubt that, over the next several years, [HBOT] will be proven beyond a reasonable doubt to be one of the most effective treatments for [TBI]. … There is a preponderance of evidence now to justify the use and funding for the treatment.”

State Rep. Denny Zent, R-Angola, will be introducing legislation in this upcoming Indiana General Assembly to establish a statewide program for Hoosier veterans so these men and women can be helped, and their families can regain their lost loved ones. I hope our state legislative leaders have the courage to pass this bill and help Indiana truly be a “state that works” for all, including our Hoosier heroes.