Traumatic Brain Injury

Adopted by the Union for Reform Judaism Board of Trustees
June 1, 2008

Submitted by the Commission on Social Action of Reform Judaism and the Committee on Jewish Family Concerns


The Reform Jewish Movement, acting on Judaism's traditional concern for health, has long viewed the provision of health care as a societal obligation. Our 1993 Resolution on Reform of the Health Care System demonstrates this commitment. From time to time, our Movement has felt the need to speak out on specific disabilities or diseases, drawing attention to health care challenges such as AIDS (1985, 1986, 1987), breast cancer (1997), and mental health (2001). Our Movement has striven to make our institutions and congregations accessible to all members of our community by establishing a URJ Task Force on Disability and by creating an ad-hoc committee of the CCAR dedicated to accessibility.

While we recognize that a number of diseases and disabilities do not receive adequate attention, the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan have resulted in and have highlighted rising rates of Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI) and underscore needs that are not being met. Estimates of TBIs resulting from these wars are in the tens of thousands.[1] Nearly 30 percent of all combat-related injuries seen at Walter Reed Army Medical Center from 2003 to 2005 included a brain injury. [2]

In Canada, approximately 16,000 individuals were admitted to hospitals with head injuries in 2003-2004. Approximately 1.4 million American civilians sustain a traumatic brain injury each year. [3] Over 75 percent of these injuries are mild concussions that temporarily interfere with brain function, including memory, judgment, reflexes, speech, balance and coordination. [4] The main causes of TBI in descending order are: falls, vehicle crashes, being struck by or against something, and assault. [5] There is no cure for traumatic brain injury, but there are steps to be taken to prevent, diagnose and treat TBI that currently are not being fully employed.

Some TBIs are preventable. Passage and enforcement of mandatory helmet and seat belt laws can prevent injury, but too frequently bike and motorcycle helmet laws apply only to minors. Currently only 20 states and the District of Columbia require all motorcyclists to wear helmets. [6] All Canadian provinces require the use of helmets by motorcyclists.

Diagnosis and screening methods for TBI are also in need of improvement. Advanced methods currently exist but are underutilized. The need for education and training for medical specialists in this field is acute.

Treatment for TBI comes in many forms. One way to help TBI survivors rehabilitate is through a community-based model that encourages the use of the community as a source of support and nurturing. Acceptance by peers, employers, and community members is essential to the healing process, especially since the disabilities resulting from TBI are not always apparent. [7]

Community support for individuals living with TBI allows us to fulfill the mitzvah of bikers cholim, visiting the sick. This is particularly important for veterans who, returning home from a traumatic experience, require high quality medical care and support to cope with their emotions and injuries. In addition to visiting soldiers, we are obligated to make sure they are welcomed back home to a society that will provide the care and resources they need.

THEREFORE, the Union for Reform Judaism resolves to:

  1. Urge the United States and Canadian governments and state and provincial governments to support and expand programs that:
    1. Teach health care providers to screen for and treat TBI;
    2. Ensure that TBI survivors have access to appropriate health care including rehabilitative services;
    3. Provide research money for TBI studies through the National Institutes of Health, the Center for Disease Control, and other appropriate agencies; and
    4. Expand efforts to educate the public about TBI.
  1. Call on state, provincial and local governments to strengthen and enforce safety legislation, such as mandatory helmet and seat belt laws that can reduce TBIs;
  1. Raise awareness of Traumatic Brain Injury in our congregations through educational programs on TBI, its prevention and treatment; and
  1. Encourage our congregations to welcome and reach out to those with TBI, particularly military personnel coming home from war, and to develop resources to assist in meeting their unique needs.

[1] Zoroya, Gregg. Military Prodded on Brain Injury. USAToday. March, 3 2007.

[2] Defense and Veterans Brain Injury Center. As reprinted by (Brain Injury Association of USA).

[3] Mayo Clinic. "Traumatic Brain Injury." Nervous System. Sept 20, 2006.

[4] Ibid.

[5] Centers for Disease Control. "What is Traumatic Brain Injury?" National Center for Injury Prevention and Control. 2006.

[6] Insurance Institute for Highway Safety "Helmut Use Laws" Laws and Regulations. April, 2007

[7] Sander, Angelle MD and Strutchen, Margaret MD. Making Connections After Brain Injury: A guide for Social Peer Mentors. Baylor College of Medicine. December 2006.