I often get phone calls and emails asking advice what someone should do after a concussion or other brain injury. In January, I received the email below from a concerned mom who attended one of my talks:
“My son is an Army EOD (bomb guy) and will be deployed to Afghanistan this February. I’d love to recommend to him that he boost his omega-3 intake before deployment and that he carry extra omega-3 with him over there in case of a TBI (for anyone in his unit/unit he’s working with; basically in his own medical kit). How wise would this recommendation be? After hearing your talk and reading what I’ve read, I feel quite comfortable doing this, but wanted to get your thoughts first.”
“Concerned Mom”, MPH, MS, RD
After responding to “Mom” with an enthusiastic “your son is exactly who the Army should have on fish oil every day!,” I didn’t hear anything for months until I got this amazing email in early July from the EOD tech, an Army Staff Sergeant and EOD Team Leader:
“I’m currently deployed to Afghanistan as an EOD technician and my mom saw your program and buys fish oil and sends it to me. I have been taking the fish oil since I got the first package from her about two weeks into my deployment. I have been about 50m from 320lbs of explosives when it detonated and I watched a grenade detonate no more than 10 feet in front of me. I have never experienced any sort of post concussive symptoms when everyone around me at those times has had some sort of headache or other TBI type symptoms. One guy was less than 10m from the 320lbs when it detonated and then was about 1.5ft from the grenade when it detonated and he has a LOT of post-concussive symptoms. I gave him some of the DHA 600 that my mom sent me and he said that he saw improvement the next day. Of course I can’t say for sure that the fish oil is what has done any of it but I do believe that it has probably helped. One of the medical personal at the Kandahar Airfield Hospital said that it’s good genetics but I’m not convinced. The other thing that I am just now thinking about is that I have not been depressed this deployment at all that I can think of. I know that I would be diagnosed with depression if I ever went to a psychiatrist but I have never had a problem realizing that I’m just depressed and that it will go away. I cannot remember a single instance of depression this deployment and in three deployments the past four months have been worse than my other two tours combined.”
There’s not much I can add to that! Unfortunately, this situation is the exception when it should be the norm for our deployed soldiers.
This is the concept Julian Bailes and I published in Military Medicine last fall [Mil Med. 2011 Oct;176(10):1120-7] that neuroprotection with omega-3s should be considered for those who are at risk of a TBI. This is true, not only of our deployed sons and daughters, but our kids playing contact sports every day around the country.