WASHINGTON (CNN) -- Up to 20 percent of U.S. troops returning from Iraq and Afghanistan may have suffered mild concussions but were unaware of them and did not get treatment, an Army study released Thursday shows.
Faoa Apineru, a U.S. Marine, suffered a brain injury while serving in Iraq.
Concussions, which the military calls traumatic brain injuries (TBIs), are among the most common injuries troops suffer during combat tours.
But the Army has a hard time identifying and treating affected troops because the soldiers and Marines don't recognize the symptoms and don't report them.
"The Army is challenged to understand, diagnose and treat military personnel who suffer with mild TBI," said Brig. Gen. Donald Bradshaw, who leads the Army's TBI task force.
Traumatic brain injuries are caused by powerful blasts, such as ones created by improvised explosive devices, or other severe trauma that shakes the brain inside the skull. The result can be bruising of the brain or greater damage.
The Army began looking at the TBI issue and care in January 2007 by talking to soldiers, family members and caregivers to find out how such injuries were identified and treated, Army officials said.
The Army now checks soldiers before and after deployment to identify and treat as many TBI-affected troops as possible.
Less than half who suffered from a mild traumatic brain injury in combat have persistent symptoms associated with it, Col. Robert Labutta, a neurosurgeon with the Army surgeon general's, office told The Associated Press.
But symptoms from the injury such as irritability affect a soldier's interaction with family and fellow soldiers, said Col. Jonathan Jaffin, deputy commander of the U.S. Army Medical Research and Materiel Command.
"By identifying them, giving them a diagnosis so they don't think they're just going crazy ... we think that helps them deal with it," Jaffin told the AP.
The Army is trying to teach soldiers TBI symptoms -- which can include headaches, dizziness, sleep disorders, nausea or memory problems -- and encourage them to seek treatment quickly.
"TBI can be treated best as soon as possible after the event, and we want the soldiers to recognize the symptoms before they go out on a patrol and possibly get another injury on top of it," Bradshaw said. E-mail to a friend