Brain injuries links with dementia confirmed in new research

Brain injuries links with dementia confirmed in new research

People with even a single concussion are more likely to develop dementia than people with no history of brain injuries, according to a University of Washington study published Tuesday in the Lancet.

"Whilst the study shows that the number, severity, and timing of head injuries influences risk, further research is required to establish the extent to which specific types of head injury (e.g. sports concussions) are or are not implicated".

Among the almost 2.8 million people observed, 4.7 percent had at least one TBI diagnosis.

"If someone has a traumatic brain injury or concussion, they need to strictly follow the protocols to leave the game and get the proper assessment and treatment that is necessary", Fann said.

They looked at the health records of 2.8 million people over 36 years and found that individuals who sustained a TBI in their 20s were 63 per cent more likely to develop dementia in the next three decades than someone who did not sustain one.

Dr Carol Routledge, director of research at Alzheimer's Research UK, said: "This well-conducted study adds significant weight to previous evidence of a link between head injury and an increased risk of dementia". Every year, more than 50 million people worldwide experience a TBI, which occurs when an external force disrupts the brain's normal function.

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In total, 5.3 per cent of participants with dementia had a history of TBI compared with 4.7 per cent of those without the condition. But it would be advisable for people who had suffered a severe knock to the head - whether in a fall, vehicle accident, through contact sport, or an assault - to take extra precautions. Those affected should avoid certain behaviors, researchers suggest.

Between 1999 and 2013, 4.5 per cent of the study population aged 50 and older were diagnosed with dementia.

The association between TBI and dementia held true even when comparing people with a history of TBI to those with non-TBI fractures not involving the skull or spine. "Greater efforts to prevent TBI and identify strategies to ameliorate the risk and impact of subsequent dementia are needed".

According to Professor Fann, "Shedding light on risk factors for dementia is one of the most important tasks in health research".

"Severe TBI is particularly frequent in young people, and it is concerning that the risk of dementia is particular high in relatively young persons who suffer TBI", said co-author Jakob Christensen, associate professor of neurology at Aarhus University Hospital in Denmark.

The authors note some limitations, including that the study included people taken from one country with a fairly similar ethnic population, so the findings can not be generalised to all ethnic groups in other countries.

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