Traumatic brain injury and vestibular pathology as a comorbidity after blast exposure

Phys Ther. 2009 Sep;89(9):980-92. doi: 10.2522/ptj.20080353. Epub 2009 Jul 23.


Blasts or explosions are the most common mechanisms of injury in modern warfare. Traumatic brain injury (TBI) is a frequent consequence of exposure to such attacks. Although the management of orthopedic, integumentary, neurocognitive, and neurobehavioral sequelae in survivors of blasts has been described in the literature, less attention has been paid to the physical therapist examination and care of people with dizziness and blast-induced TBI (BITBI). Dizziness is a common clinical finding in people with BITBI; however, many US military service members who have been exposed to blasts and who are returning from Iraq and Afghanistan also complain of vertigo, gaze instability, motion intolerance, and other symptoms consistent with peripheral vestibular pathology. To date, few studies have addressed such "vestibular" complaints in service members injured by blasts. Given the demonstrated efficacy of treating the signs and symptoms associated with vestibular pathology, vestibular rehabilitation may have important implications for the successful care of service members who have been injured by blasts and who are complaining of vertigo or other symptoms consistent with vestibular pathology. In addition, there is a great need to build consensus on the clinical best practices for the assessment and management of BITBI and blast-related dizziness. The purpose of this review is to summarize the findings of clinicians and scientists conducting research on the effects of blasts with the aims of defining the scope of the problem, describing and characterizing the effects of blasts, reviewing relevant patients' characteristics and sensorimotor deficits associated with BITBI, and suggesting clinical best practices for the rehabilitation of BITBI and blast-related dizziness.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Blast Injuries* / complications
  • Blast Injuries* / epidemiology
  • Blast Injuries* / rehabilitation
  • Brain Injuries* / epidemiology
  • Brain Injuries* / etiology
  • Brain Injuries* / rehabilitation
  • Comorbidity
  • Explosions
  • Humans
  • Military Personnel
  • Physical Therapy Modalities*
  • United States / epidemiology
  • Vestibular Diseases* / epidemiology
  • Vestibular Diseases* / etiology
  • Vestibular Diseases* / rehabilitation
  • Warfare