Traumatic Brain Injury Can Increase Risk of Dementia

Traumatic Brain Injury Can Increase Risk of DementiaAlthough traumatic brain injury (TBI) and short-term risk of dementia have long been linked, a new study in the PLOS Medicine Journal shows that a TBI can increase the risk of developing the disease even up to 30 years later. The research found that, although the risk does decrease as time goes by, there is a strong association between serious brain injury and dementia, and that association can last for decades.

About the study

Researchers from Umeå University in Sweden went through databases of research from 1964 to 2012, looking at three sets: 164,334 people with a TBI and a matching control group; 136,233 people with dementia and a matching control group; and then 46,970 pairs of siblings, one of who had a traumatic brain injury diagnosis.

With this large amount of data spanning so many decades, researchers were able to note an association between TBI and dementia risk. Their findings included:

  • Risk of a dementia diagnosis was highest the first year after a TBI—four to six times higher than people without a TBI.
  • Overall risk does decrease over time, but TBI patients still face higher risk than those without, even 30 years later.
  • The more severe the TBI, or the more TBIs suffered, the higher the risk of dementia.
  • At the 15-year follow-up point, the risk for dementia increased 80% for people who had at least one TBI as compared to those who didn't have any brain injury.

Although these findings add much-needed research to the body of data linking TBIs and dementia risk, it's important to note that this is an observational study—meaning that TBIs don't necessarily cause dementia. As with all studies, we should keep a few things in mind. First, it's possible that the onset of dementia could cause an accident resulting in a brain injury to begin with. And, dementia is common, so that fact could affect the data.

Further studies would be needed to prove a cause and effect relationship between TBIs and dementia. However, this new report shows a strong association and is worth noting, especially for people who have already suffered a TBI. Cumulative hits to the head can cause more damage than previously thought, and it's crucial that any head injury is paid attention to and that care is taken to avoid another.

Avoiding TBIs

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) offers advice on lowering your risk or preventing head injuries. Always use an appropriate safety seat or belt for your child, and ensure you always buckle up as well. Use a helmet when riding a bike, motorcycle, skating, playing contact sports or baseball, horseback riding, or skiing and snowboarding.

Ensure your senior citizen's living area is safe by removing clutter and tripping hazards, using nonslip mats and rugs in bathrooms, and installing handrails on stairs. If you have young children, install window guards and use safety gates at stair openings.

Did you suffer a brain injury due to the negligent behavior of someone else? The Rocky McElhaney Law Firm can help you find justice. Our Nashville traumatic brain injury lawyers will fight for the compensation you'll need to pay for ongoing medical care, plus reimburse you for your lost wages, property damage, and pain and suffering.  Please call our lawyers at 615-425-2500 or use our contact form to schedule an appointment. We have offices in Nashville, Hendersonville, and Knoxville.