Traumatic Brain Injuries — HEALTH REPORT

Computer artwork of a brain in side view with the brain's neural network represented by lines and flashes

Computer artwork of a brain in side view with the brain's neural network represented by lines and flashes

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". Suffering a traumatic brain injury from a blow to the head boosted dementia risk by 24 per cent in a Danish study group of almost three million people, researchers said today. For example, individuals having a TBI in their 20s were 63 per cent more likely to develop dementia about 30 years later compared to those who didn't sustain a TBI in their 20s.

The survey of 36 years' worth of data - collected from the Danish national patient register - found that the risk of dementia rose with the number and severity of brain injuries, a team wrote in The Lancet Psychiatry, a medical journal.

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.

Dementia affects up to 55,000 people in Ireland and Alzheimer's disease is the most common cause of dementia, accounting for 60-70 per cent of all cases.

Fann said future research trying to narrow down why some people with brain injuries get dementia while other don't is important.

Using health records from more than 15,000 patients, they showed that the new score, known as the GCS-Pupil (GCS-P), would have improved doctors' ability to predict a patient's condition in the six months following a brain injury.

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The findings are particularly worrying in light of recent attention around the risk of concussion in contact sports like boxing, rugby and football. The researchers sought to resolve conflicting findings from previous studies on the link between TBI and dementia. For their first T.B.I. diagnosis, 85 percent were this mild type. Of those, 5.3 percent had sustained at least one TBI during the observation period, which began in 1977.

Between 1999 and 2013, 4.5 per cent of the study population aged 50 and older were diagnosed with dementia.

"There are individuals at risk here", he said.

For years, scientists have studied the effects of traumatic brain injuries that appear in professional athletes, looking for ties to dementia later in life.

The authors called for heightened efforts to prevent TBI, especially among younger people, and said strategies are needed to ameliorate the risk and impact of dementia associated with TBI. "The attributable risk of traumatic brain injury to different exposures and how these change across time needs policy attention, given it is likely that prevention of these need be considered at societal, community, and local levels".

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