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

A nationwide study of 2.8 million people over 36 years in Denmark has found that a person's risk of developing dementia increases with the number and severity of traumatic brain injuries.

Responding to the study, Dr Mahmoud Maina, a research associate at the University of Sussex said: "The findings are truly novel due to the large sample size employed, in-depth history collected and follow-ups".

Suffering a severe concussion in your twenties increases the risk of developing dementia in the next 30 years by more than two thirds, a major study has warned. But even a single, mild TBI - such as a concussion - was associated with a 17 percent higher risk of dementia.

Lead author Professor Jesse Fann said: "Individuals with a history of traumatic brain injury, including those with less severe injuries, have an increased risk of developing dementia, even decades after the injury".

"However, it's important to emphasize that although the relative risk of dementia is increased after traumatic brain injury, the absolute risk increase is low", Fann noted in a journal news release. According to the study authors, more than 50 million people every year experience a traumatic brain injury.

"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 researchers found that 4.3 percent of participants with dementia had at least one mild TBI, compared with 4 percent of those without dementia.

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They found 132,093 people had a TBI at some point between 1977-2013, and 126,734 were diagnosed with a form of dementia between 1999 and 2013.

The overall risk of dementia in individuals with a history of TBI was 24 per cent higher than those without a history of TBI, after accounting for other risk factors for the disease. This could include regular exercise and avoiding other risk-boosting behaviours such as smoking, or eating and drinking too much.

"It certainly adds to the evidence that TBI is associated with negative not just short term, but long-term, outcomes", Fann said.

"Shedding light on risk factors for dementia is one of the most important tasks in health research". In the study, 5.3 percent of dementia patients had a brain injury in the past. "If they have a history of traumatic brain injury, they should do their best to prevent further traumatic brain injuries".

The study also compared people with traumatic brain injuries to people with other types of traumatic injuries, like broken bones other than the skull or spine.

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