Health Conditions among Special Operations Forces Versus Conventional Military Service Members: A VA TBI Model Systems Study

Amanda Garcia, Tracy S. Kretzmer, Kristen Dams-O'connor, Shannon R. Miles, Laura Bajor, Xinyu Tang, Heather G. Belanger, Bryan P. Merritt, Blessen Eapen, Tamara McKenzie-Hartman, Marc A. Silva

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

1 Scopus citations


Objective: To examine traumatic brain injury (TBI) characteristics and comorbid medical profiles of Special Operations Forces (SOF) Active Duty Service Member/Veterans (ADSM/Vs) and contrast them with conventional military personnel. Setting: The 5 Veterans Affairs (VA) Polytrauma Rehabilitation Centers. Participants: A subset of participants in the VA TBI Model Systems multicenter longitudinal study with known SOF status. These included 157 participants who identified as SOF personnel (average age = 41.8 years; 96% male, 81% active duty), and 365 who identified as Conventional Forces personnel (average age = 37.4 years; 92% male, 30% active duty). Design: Retrospective analysis of prospective cohort, cross-sectional. Main Measures: The Health Comorbidities Interview. Results: SOF personnel were more likely to have deployed to a combat zone, had more years of active duty service, and were more likely active duty at time of TBI. SOF personnel were more likely to have had mild TBI (vs moderate/severe) and their TBI caused by violent mechanism. SOF personnel had a higher number of comorbidities, with more diagnoses of chronic pain, osteoarthritis, hyperlipidemia, hip fractures, and obstructive sleep apnea. Conclusion: SOF personnel are at a higher risk for multimorbidity after TBI. Current rehabilitation practices should incorporate early screening and treatment of common conditions in this population, while future practices may benefit from a focus on prevention.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)E292-E298
JournalJournal of Head Trauma Rehabilitation
Issue number4
StatePublished - 1 Jul 2022


  • Special Operations Forces
  • brain injuries
  • cohort studies
  • comorbidity
  • military personnel
  • rehabilitation
  • traumatic
  • veterans


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