The risk of dementia, including Alzheimer's, was significantly higher in people who had experienced a traumatic brain injury (TBI) than with people who had no history of TBI, according to one of the largest studies to date on that association.
The study found that overall, those who sustained a TBI were 24% more likely to be diagnosed with dementia over the study period compared to those who had not suffered such an injury.
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.
"Individuals with a history of TBI, including those with less severe injuries have an increased risk of developing dementia, even decades after the injury".
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.
The scientists involved in the brain injury and dementia research identified every diagnosis of TBI from the health records of a Danish population of 2.8 million people between 1977 and 2013.
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"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", co-author Jakob Christensen, an associate professor of neurology at Aarhus University Hospital in Denmark, said in a statement. According to the study authors, more than 50 million people every year experience a traumatic brain injury. Of the people without dementia, 4.7 percent had suffered a brain injury. Among first TBI diagnoses, 85 percent had been characterized as mild and 15 percent had been characterized as severe or skull fracture.
The new study took account of other influences on dementia risk including diabetes, heart disease, depression and substance abuse.
The researchers noted that while previous research has suggested a link between TBI, including concussion, and subsequent dementia, earlier studies have been limited in size and details, and have had short follow-up periods.
"There are some cognitive rehabilitation strategies that may decrease the cognitive deficits associated with a brain injury", Fann said.
The researchers note that the absolute risk remains low, but one must remain especially mindful nevertheless. "If they have a history of traumatic brain injury, they should do their best to prevent further traumatic brain injuries". This also applies to minor injuries such as a concussion. And they looked at other types of trauma, such as broken bones, and found that brain injuries were more closely tied to dementia.