This review examines how lessons learned from United States military conflicts, beginning with the United States Civil War through the engagements in Iraq and Afghanistan, have shaped current traumatic brain injury (TBI) care in the United States military, influenced congressional mandates and directives, and led to best practices in caring for the warfighter. Prior to the most recent war, emphasis was placed on improving the surgical and medical care of service members (SM) with severe and especially penetrating brain injuries. However, during the Iraq and Afghanistan conflicts, also known as the Global War on Terrorism (GWOT), blast injury from improvised explosive devices most often caused mild TBI (mTBI), an injury that was not always recognized and was labelled the "signature wound" of the GWOT. This has led to extensive research on objective diagnostic technologies for mTBI, the association of mTBI with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), and the long term consequences of mTBI. Here we summarize the key findings and most important advances from those efforts, and discuss the way forward regarding future military conflicts.
Keywords: Department of Defense; history; service members; traumatic brain injury.