TBI Associated With Increased Risk of Subsequent Dementia

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

Sustaining a traumatic brain injury (TBT) in your 20s may increase the risk of developing dementia including Alzheimer's in your 50s by 60 per cent, a review of almost three million patients has revealed. Commenting on the research, University College London neurology professor Jonathan Schott said it provided "perhaps the best evidence yet that traumatic brain injury is a risk factor for dementia".

"While there is growing interest in the question of whether collisions in sports like rugby or football might affect dementia risk, this study only looked at head injuries that required hospital treatment and doesn't tell us anything about the impacts you'd normally expect to see on the sports field".

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

Even a single incidence of concussion was found to lead to a significantly higher risk (17 per cent) of dementia. "Previous studies on war veterans with head injuries came to a similar conclusion that about its risk for dementia". Every year, more than 50 million people worldwide experience a TBI.

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.

Their study covers a period of 36 years. But it would be advisable for people who had suffered a severe knock to the head - whether in a fall, auto accident, through contact sport, or an assault - to take extra precautions.

Those who sustained a TBI in their 30s were 37% more likely to develop dementia 30 years later compared to those who did not. And he clarified that the findings do not suggest that every person who sustains a severe TBI will develop dementia later in life. This could include regular exercise and avoiding other risk-boosting behaviours such as smoking, or eating and drinking too much.

The findings also show that men with a history of TBI had a slightly higher risk of developing dementia than women.

The researchers also discovered that a brain injury in your 20s increases the risk of developing dementia in your 50s by 60 percent.

The researchers note that the absolute risk remains low, but one must remain especially mindful nevertheless.

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. "The association of TBI with different causes and how these change across time needs policy attention, as it is likely that prevention needs to be considered at societal, community, and local levels".

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