Thousands of British Soldiers may have Undiagnosed Brain Injuries

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Gavin Hughes

Partner, Military Claims Solicitor

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In 2020, it was reported by The Sunday People thousands of British soldiers who served in Afghanistan and Iraq could be suffering with undiagnosed traumatic brain injuries. This revelation came  following reports from experts consisting of both doctors and scientists from the Armed Forces Medical Services of Brain injury Summit at the Centre for Blast Injury Studies at Imperial College London who had been investigating this issue.

The evidence obtained by the experts suggests that soldiers receiving medical treatment immediately after being involved in an explosion are scanned for bodily injuries frequently. However, for reasons unknown they do not receive referrals for brain scans unless there are clear and obvious physical head injuries.

Unfortunately, it is known that visible head injuries are not a prerequisite to a brain injury diagnosis.  The pressure caused to the brain from an explosion can itself cause damage, even without any other injuries being suffered.  In this type of scenario, veterans can be left suffering from the physical symptoms and any other impairments arising from a traumatic brain injury without knowing what the cause of this is.

It is well documented that the sooner a brain injury is diagnosed and treated, the greater the possibility is of a maximum recovery for the individual who has been affected. It is therefore of the utmost importance that traumatic brain injuries are identified as soon as possible to allow the most appropriate treatment to be commenced to aid the recovery of the individual.

Additionally, the very same doctors and scientists that identified this as being an issue have warned that any failure to properly identify a traumatic brain injury arising from blast related trauma and any failure or delay in obtaining treatment for the individual solider affected by it can, and is, leading to many being wrongly diagnosed. This is placing many affected individuals at risk of suicide due to the extreme impact a traumatic brain injury is likely to have on an individual.

If you have served in the British Armed Forces in Afghanistan or if you believe that you may have an undiagnosed brain injury, you can get in touch with our team of expert Military Claims Solicitors to see if you may be entitled to claim for compensation.

wide shot of soldiers' silhouettes walking to plane

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If you want to know more about claiming compensation for a brain injury acquired while serving in the military, get in touch with our team.

What is a Traumatic Brain Injury?

A traumatic brain injury generally is an injury to the brain which has been caused by trauma to the head – more commonly referred to as a head injury. There are many possible causes of a traumatic brain injury and it is important to recognise that it is not only in military service or through a blast related trauma that a brain injury can be sustained.

The majority of brain injuries result in a brief period of unconsciousness or perhaps just feeling sick or dizzy. It is estimated that 95% of all head injuries fall into this category. However, there are other severities of head injury which can have lasting impacts on an individual.

One of these is a moderate head injury which is defined as a loss of consciousness for between 15 minutes and 6 hours. A period of post traumatic amnesia of up to 24 hours would also fall under this category. Patients with moderate head injuries are likely to suffer from a number of residual symptoms.

Additionally, a person may be diagnosed with a severe brain injury. A severe brain injury is usually defined as being a condition where the patient has been in an unconscious state for 6 hours or more. A post traumatic amnesia of 24 hours or more would fall into this category too. Patients with a severe head injury are likely to be hospitalised and will likely receive rehabilitation once the acute phase has passed. Depending on the length of time that a person has spent in a coma, it will be likely that these patients will go on to develop and experience more serious physical deficits.

an xray of a brain

What Are the Symptoms of a Traumatic Brain Injury?

Symptoms of a traumatic brain injury can typically include the following:

  • Dizziness and headaches
  • Lack of energy
  • Difficulty seeing or hearing
  • Sensitivity to light and noise
  • Changes in taste and smell
  • Difficulty speaking
  • Memory loss and forgetfulness
  • Difficulty concentrating
  • Personality changes
  • Mood swings


The effects of a traumatic brain injury on an individual depends on a number of factors such as the type, location and severity of the injury. A person may experience any number of the above effects of a traumatic brain injury and this will vary widely from person to person.

If you have served in the British Armed Forces and feel that you may be or are suffering with any of these symptoms, you may be entitled to compensation by making a civil claim. Our team of Military Claims Solicitors are experts at helping veterans to obtain the compensation and medical treatment that they deserve.

If we are able to accept your case, it may be that we can deal with this on a No Win, No Fee basis for you.

Brain Injuries Found in U.S. Troops


Sadly this is not an issue which exists solely in the UK. the U.S. Defense and Veterans Brain Injury Centre (DVBIC) reported that more than 400,000 U.S. troops worldwide had serious or traumatic brain injuries following combat. This figure is based on those who fought in either, or both, Afghanistan and Iraq and ranges from the years 2000 to late 2019.

From their findings, the DVBIC have predicted that around 20% of U.S. soldiers who served in either or both of these areas overseas could have serious brain injuries.

In addition to this, the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs have estimated that from those veterans who use their services for healthcare, more than 185,000 have been diagnosed with at least one traumatic brain injury. Although the majority of these traumatic brain injuries were classified as mild, the associated co-morbidities are a significant cause for concern and disability outside of military settings and environments.

Ministry of Defence Deny Diagnosis of Brain Injuries

Closer to home in the UK, the Ministry of Defence reported that only 737 British soldiers had been diagnosed with traumatic brain injuries with 399 of these individuals being discharged from duty with the principal or contributory cause of this discharge being the diagnosis of a traumatic brain injury.

Around 180,000 British soldiers have served in Afghanistan and Iraq in the last 20 years. If the DVBIC are accurate in predicting that 20% of soldiers who served in Afghanistan or Iraq could have serious brain injuries then it may very well be the case that there could be many British soldiers with undiagnosed and untreated brain injuries.

In turn, this means that the Ministry of Defence are failing to provide treatment for the brain injuries sustained by their soldiers during active duty.

Can a Traumatic Brain Injury be Diagnosed Years Later?

In many cases, a traumatic brain injury will be evident through scans years later or can be diagnosed through neuropsychiatric assessments.  As such, even if your military career ended some time ago, you may still be able to make a claim.

Although injuries can be detected long after the trauma happens, it’s important that you get medical help as soon as you can if you may be suffering from a traumatic brain injury.

Some of these symptoms are similar to Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). By speaking to a medical expert they will be able to assess you and let you know if your symptoms were brought on by a brain injury or by the effects of the trauma causing you to suffer with PTSD.

As with PTSD, treatment for a traumatic brain injury is more likely to be effective as close as possible to the date that the injury was sustained so it’s important to get an early a diagnosis as early as possible have the best possible chance of achieving the best recovery possible.

Ultimately, the Ministry of Defence are responsible for keeping you safe and helping you if you have unfortunately sustained an injury whilst serving your country. If you have suffered from a traumatic brain injury and you weren’t diagnosed, there may be a claim for damages that you can proceed with for personal injury should you wish to do so.

Our expert team can help you by assessing your case, helping you to make a claim and subsequently helping with obtaining diagnosis and both identifying and receiving treatment. 

If you have been affected by any of the issues arising from this article, help can be found through any of the below resources:

  • Headway – can be contacted on 0808 800 2244 or by email at [email protected]. Further information and resources can be found on their website at

  • Royal British Legion – can be contacted by telephone on 01622 795900 or at [email protected]. Alternatively, you can submit an enquiry for help and assistance through their website at


Royal British Legion Industries (RBLI). (n.d.). "Get Support." [Online] Available at: (Accessed: 01/12/2023).

The Guardian. (2022). "British Army Veterans Denied Treatment for Brain Injuries." [Online] Available at: (Accessed: 01/12/2023).

S. Department of Veterans Affairs. (n.d.). "Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI) - Research Topics." [Online] Available at: (Accessed: Day Month Year).

Headway - the brain injury association. (n.d.). Home." [Online] Available at: (Accessed: 01/12/2023).

Headway - the brain injury association. (n.d.). "Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI)." [Online] Available at:

(2020). "Thousands of British Troops Have Untreated Brain Injuries." [Online] Available at: (Accessed: 01/12/2023).

Gavin Hughes

Partner, Military Claims Solicitor

Gavin is a Partner in our Personal Injury department and Head of the Military Accident and Injury Claims team. He also runs his own caseload of military personal injury cases.

Gavin shows a personal touch with his clients and works closely with them to achieve the best results.

He is a robust and determined litigator and has secured many six and seven-figure settlements for clients throughout his career.

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