Traumatic brain injuries increase your risk of dementia later in life

Concussion in 20s could increase the risk of dementia by 60 per cent, Lancet study finds

"What surprised us was that even a single mild TBI was associated with a significantly higher risk of dementia", added Jesse Fann, Professor at the University of Washington School of Medicine in Seattle, US.

New research in the journal Lancet Psychiatry offers more evidence on the link between traumatic brain injuries and dementia for older adults.

The study found that the risk of dementia increased 33 per cent higher for two or three TBIs, 61 per cent higher for four TBIs, and 183 per cent higher for five or more TBIs.

This included "less severe" injuries such as concussion.

According to United Nations data, around 50 million people around the world suffer from dementia, such as Alzheimer's disease.

This study examined the health records of 15,000 patients and found that assessment of pupil reactivity, called GCS-Pupil or GCS-P, would have had a positive effect on doctors' ability to forecast the condition of their patients six months after diagnosing a brain injury.

Researchers obtained their TBI data from the Danish National Patient Register, while information on dementia involved a combination of data from the National Patient Register, the Danish Psychiatric Central Register and the Danish National Prescription Registry. For example, individuals having a TBI in their 20s were 63% more likely to develop dementia about 30 years later compared to those who didn't sustain a TBI in their 20s (overall dementia rate 0.55 per 1000 person years vs 0.34 per 1000 person-years); whereas individuals sustaining a TBI in their 30s were 37% more likely to develop dementia 30 years later compared with those without a TBI in their 30s (1.67 per 1000 person-years vs 1.22 per 1000 person-years; figure 2).

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Previous studies have been conflicting, because of small sample sizes and short follow-up periods.

The leading causes traumatic brain injury are motor vehicle crashes, violence and falls.

"The absolute risk of dementia when a person is in their 50s is still very low". Every year, more than 50 million people worldwide experience a TBI. The mean age at first diagnosis of dementia was 80.7 years.

The idea that blows to the head suffered by boxers and footballers may increase the risk of dementia is a hotly debated issue.

Dementia remained relatively rare: only 4.7 percent of study participants developed dementia at all, a total of 126,734 people.

A single TBI increased the risk by more than a third.

One possible weakness of the study was that it looked at people from a single country with a "fairly similar ethnic population", said the authors - meaning its findings may not apply to people of other ethnic groups in other countries. "Our findings suggest that improved traumatic brain injury prevention programmes may have an opportunity to reduce the burden of dementia worldwide".

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