President Donald Trump said he does not consider potential brain injuries to be as serious as physical combat wounds, downplaying the severity of US service members being treated for concussion symptoms from an Iranian attack as “headaches.”
During the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, Trump was asked to explain the discrepancy between his previous comments that no US service member was harmed in the January 8 Iranian missile attack on Al-Asad airbase in Iraq, and the latest reports of US troops being treated for injuries sustained in that attack.
“No, I heard that they had headaches, and a couple of other things, but I would say, and I can report, it’s not very serious,” Trump replied during the news conference.
The reporter pressed, “So you don’t consider potential traumatic brain injury serious?”
“They told me about it numerous days later, you’d have to ask Department of Defense,” Trump replied.
The commander in chief continued, “I don’t consider them very serious injuries relative to other injuries that I’ve seen.”
“I’ve seen what Iran has done with their roadside bombs to our troops. I’ve seen people with no legs and with no arms. I’ve seen people that were horribly, horribly injured in that area, that war,” Trump said.
“No, I do not consider that to be bad injuries, no,” he added.
According to the Defense and Veterans Brain Injury Center, a majority of TBI injuries are considered mild, and are also known as concussions, but they can leave long-term effects on cognitive functions.
A mild TBI is more difficult to identify than severe TBI injuries because there might not be a visible head injury and some symptoms are similar to those of PTSD, according to the DVBIC. Individuals who sustain multiple concussions are at greater risk for further or permanent neurologic damage.
The Defense Department and Veterans Affairs announced last year it would fund up to $50 million in new research on concussions.
“VA and DOD share an urgent, ongoing commitment to better understand the long-term impact of TBI,” Secretary of Veterans Affairs Robert Wilkie said at the time.
The Pentagon and the President had initially said no service members were injured or killed in the January 8 Iranian missile attack, which was retaliation for the January 2 US drone strike that killed a top Iranian general.
“No Americans were harmed in last night’s attack by the Iranian regime. We suffered no casualties. All of our soldiers are safe and only minimal damage was sustained at our military bases,” Trump said an address to the nation after the attack.
But last week, US Central Command said that 11 service members were treated for concussion symptoms from the attack.
CENTCOM said that service members who had been in the impact zone were being monitored for potential injuries and that the injuries became apparent in the days after the attack. Concussions are not always apparent immediately after they’ve been suffered.
CENTCOM announced Tuesday that additional US troops have been transported to an American medical facility in Germany.
CNN’s Barbara Starr, Ryan Browne and Nikki Carvajal contributed to this report.