Journal Articles

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Military Medicine


INTRODUCTION: Traumatic brain injury (TBI) is an occupational health hazard of military service. Few studies have examined differences in military occupational categories (MOC) which take into consideration the physical demands and job requirements across occupational groups.

METHODS: This study was approved by the University of Texas Health Science Center at Houston Institutional Review Board. Data for this cross-sectional study were obtained from the Naval Health Research Center's Millennium Cohort Study, an ongoing DoD study. Univariate analyses were employed to calculate frequencies and proportions for all variables. Bivariate analyses included unadjusted odds ratios (OR) and 95% CI for the association between all variables and TBI. Multivariable logistic regression was used to calculate adjusted ORs and 95% CIs to assess the association between MOC and TBI, adjusted for potential confounders: sex, race/ethnicity, rank, military status, branch of service, before-service TBI, and panel. Logistic regression models estimated odds of TBI for each MOC, and stratified models estimated odds separately for enlisted and officer MOCs.

RESULTS: Approximately 27% of all participants reported experiencing a service-related TBI. All MOCs were statistically significantly associated with increased odds of service-related TBI, with a range of 16 to 45%, except for "Health Care" MOCs (OR: 1.01, 95% CI 0.91-1.13). Service members in "Infantry/Tactical Operations" had the highest odds (OR: 1.45, 95% CI 1.31-1.61) of service-related TBI as compared to "Administration & Executives." Among enlisted service members, approximately 28% reported experiencing a service-related TBI. Among enlisted-specific MOCs, the odds of TBI were elevated for those serving in "Infantry, Gun Crews, Seamanship (OR: 1.79, 95% CI 1.58-2.02)," followed by "Electrical/Mechanical Equipment Repairers (OR: 1.23, 95% CI 1.09-1.38)," "Service & Supply Handlers (OR 1.21, 95% CI 1.08-1.37)," "Other Technical & Allied Specialists (OR 1.21, 95% CI 1.02-1.43)," "Health Care Specialists (OR 1.19, 95% CI 1.04-1.36)," and "Communications & Intelligence (OR: 1.16, 95% CI 1.02-1.31)," compared to "Functional Support & Administration." Among officer service members, approximately 24% reported experiencing a service-related TBI. After adjustment the odds of TBI were found to be significant for those serving as "Health Care Officers" (OR: 0.65, 95% CI: 0.52-0.80) and "Intelligence Officers" (OR: 1.27, 95% CI: 1.01-1.61).

CONCLUSIONS: A strength of this analysis is the breakdown of MOC associations with TBI stratified by enlisted and officer ranks, which has been previously unreported. Given the significantly increased odds of service-related TBI reporting within enlisted ranks, further exploration into the location (deployed versus non-deployed) and mechanism (e.g., blast, training, sports, etc.) for these injuries is needed. Understanding injury patterns within these military occupations is necessary to increase TBI identification, treatment, and foremost, prevention.Results highlight the importance of examining specific occupational categories rather than relying on gross categorizations, which do not account for shared knowledge, skills, and abilities within occupations. The quantification of risk among enlisted MOCs suggests a need for further research into the causes of TBI.


Humans, Cohort Studies, Cross-Sectional Studies, Occupations, Brain Injuries, Traumatic, Military Personnel

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