Brain injuries links with dementia confirmed in new research

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

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

After one of the largest ever investigations into the link between traumatic brain injury (TBI) and cognitive decline in later life, Danish and USA researchers concluded that the younger a person was when sustaining a head injury, the higher the risk of developing Alzheimer's and other forms of dementia.

A single TBI characterised as "severe" increased the risk by 35 per cent while a single "mild" TBI or concussion increased the risk by 17 per cent, revealed the research. Of the people without dementia, 4.7 percent had suffered a brain injury.

Today, a study that analyzed data from 2-point-8 million people found that T-B-Is and their severity heighten the risk of developing dementia.

Researchers found the "fully adjusted risk of all-cause dementia in people with a history of TBI was higher than in those without a history of TBI, as was the specific risk of Alzheimer's disease".

"What surprised us was that even a single mild TBI was associated with a significantly higher risk of dementia", said lead author Jesse Fann, a professor of psychiatry and behavioral sciences at the University of Washington School of Medicine. Each year, there are ten million new patients.

Each year, more than 50 million people worldwide suffer a traumatic brain injury, which occurs when a bump or blow to the head disrupts normal brain function.

In a separate project, Irish researchers are now looking to recruit 100 adults - without dementia or any form of significant cognitive difficulty - for a large scale study which hopes to identify early signs of dementia years before memory loss and confusion develop. The researchers found that 4.3 percent of participants with dementia had at least one mild TBI, compared with 4 percent of those without dementia. The leading causes include falls, motor vehicle accidents and assaults.

According to Fann, most people who sustain a single concussion do not develop dementia and the findings do not suggest that every person who sustains a severe TBI will develop dementia later in life.

Previous research has suggested a link between TBI, including mild TBI (concussion) and subsequent dementia. TBI correlated with elevated dementia risk compared to individuals with a non-TBI fracture not involving the skull or spine (hazard ratio, 1.29).

Importantly, the younger the individual sustaining a TBI the higher the risk of subsequent dementia, when taking time since TBI into account. Our analysis raises some very important issues, in particular that efforts to prevent traumatic brain injury, especially in younger people, may be inadequate considering the huge and growing burden of dementia and the prevalence of TBI worldwide.

Fann said more research is needed to understand who is at greatest risk of dementia and what other factors contribute to that risk.

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