Background: Several important factors must be considered when deciding to return a soldier to duty after a traumatic brain injury (TBI). Premature return increases risk for not only second-impact syndrome during the acute phase but also permanent changes from repetitive concussions. Thus, there is a critical need for return-to-duty (RTD) assessment criteria that encompass the spectrum of injury and disease experienced by US soldiers, particularly TBI.
Objectives: To provide evidence-based standards to eventually serve as criteria for operational competence and performance of a soldier after injury. Specifically, the relationships between clinical assessments and novel military-specific tasks were evaluated.
Method: Exploratory analyses (including nonparametric tests and Spearman rank correlations) of an archived database.
Participants: A total of 79 patients with TBI who participated in an RTD assessment program at a US Army rehabilitation and recovery center.
Main Measures: Military Functional Assessment Program (to determine a soldier's operational competence and performance after TBI) tasks; Dizziness Handicap Inventory; Dynamic Visual Acuity (vestibular function); Sensory Organization Test (postural control); Repeatable Battery for the Assessment of Neuropsychological Status (neuropsychological screening test); Beck Depression Inventory-II; Beck Anxiety Inventory; Comprehensive Trail Making Test (visual search and sequencing); posttraumatic stress disorder checklist military version; Alcohol Use Disorders Identification Test; Epworth Sleepiness Scale; Patient Health Questionnaire; and Military Acute Concussion Evaluation.
Results: Selected military operational assessment tasks correlated significantly with clinical measures of vestibular function, psychological well-being, and cognitive function. Differences on occupational therapy assessments, a concussion screening tool, and a self-report health questionnaire were seen between those who passed and those who failed the RTD assessment. Specifically, those who passed the RTD assessment scored more favorably on these clinical assessments.
Conclusions: This study demonstrated convergent validity between Military Functional Assessment Program tasks and clinical assessment scores. The Military Functional Assessment Program shows promise for augmenting decision making related to RTD and soldier skills. Additional research is needed to determine the effectiveness of this program in predicting RTD success.