Even Mild Brain Injuries Can Lead To Dementia
Even Mild Brain Injuries Can Lead To Dementia
Traumatic brain injuries, or TBIs, are usually associated with sports. More specifically, American football. Stories about professional players suffering a TBI because of their jobs are all too common. But in fact, sport-related TBIs aren’t the most common causes of the injury — they’re actually car collisions.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), over 1.5 million people suffer from a TBI each year in the United States. Of those, 230,000 patients are hospitalized, 50,000 are reported dead, and up to 90,000 experience a long-term disability.
And now, evidence is showing that mild, moderate, and severe head injuries may all increase the risk of being diagnosed with a neurological disease. A new study published in the journal Alzheimer’s & Dementia has followed up with Americans whose health outcomes have been tracked for the past 25 years. The authors discovered that any type of head injury is capable of causing a long-term increase in the risk of dementia. Furthermore, the study indicated that an individual who frequently injures their head will have a greater chance of being diagnosed with dementia.
If you or a loved one has suffered any type of head injury, we recommend immediate medical treatment. Below, our expert legal team at West Coast Trial Lawyers will share some insight into the new findings concerning mild TBIs possibly leading to dementia.
Mild TBIs and Dementia
A TBI results from an impact to the head that disrupts normal brain function, which can affect a person’s cognitive abilities, including learning and thinking skills. TBI is a leading cause of death and disability among children and young adults in the U.S., according to the CDC. Currently, over 5.3 million people have been diagnosed with a permanent TBI-related disability.
Within the past 30 years, research has found that moderate and severe TBI can pose a great risk for an individual to develop Alzheimer’s disease or another form of dementia years after the initial date of the head injury. However, new research shows even milder injuries can also result in dementia.
Dementia is a general term for memory and cognitive losses caused by changes in the brain, and the most common type is Alzheimer’s disease. Of course, there are other types of dementia, including vascular dementia and frontotemporal dementia.
Researchers hope that this new information will increase awareness about head injuries and how important it is to prevent them from happening. Andrea Schneider, a neurologist at the University of Pennsylvania, stated, “That’s really one of the most important take-home messages from this study, because head injuries are something that are preventable to some degree. […] You can do practical things like wearing bike helmets or wearing your seatbelt.”
In past studies, researchers would compare similarities between head injuries and dementia, however, most of these comparisons were done with military veterans. Schneider clarified that this new study is one of the first to take a close look at a general population who suffers from head injuries and dementia. This creates more of a representation of an average individual.
In this study, Schneider and her colleagues gathered 14,000 participants to follow environmental and genetic conditions that cause heart disease, however, they also decided to have their participants self-report any head injuries. Once data was collected, researchers found that people who suffered a head injury were 25 percent more likely to develop dementia. Risk of dementia increased for those who have had two or more head injuries.
Other health factors could also contribute to dementia. According to Wired, genetics could make it more likely for an individual to have dementia. However, Schneider clarified that a head injury plays a significant factor. “We were able to say that about 9.5 percent of all cases of dementia in our study were attributable to head injury,” she said.
How Does a Mild TBI Lead to Dementia?
Thanks to the study, it has become more apparent that brain injuries have a connection to dementia. However, not many understand why this is true, which is why several theories have been made.
Maybe, as Wired noted, “head trauma leads to a buildup of neurofibrillary plaques and tangles that are associated with Alzheimer’s disease. Or it may trigger an increase in the tau proteins that cause chronic traumatic encephalopathy, a neurodegenerative disease sometimes found in people who receive repeated blows to the head, like football players and boxers, which can cause increased aggression, depression, and memory loss. Another possibility is that when the brain rattles around in the skull, tiny blood vessels get destroyed, decreasing the amount of oxygen available to the brain. The pathology of dementia caused by head injuries is also unclear; not all head injuries lead to the same outcome.”
Scientists have mentioned that it can be difficult to examine a living person’s brain for dementia. The process of determining exactly what happened and when the disease started is complex. Deborah Barnes, a psychiatry professor at University of California, San Francisco, said, “the brain pathology underlying dementia is occurring for decades before symptoms start to emerge, making dementia mechanisms very difficult to study.”
As of now, if an individual is suffering from a brain injury, there is not much one can do to decrease the risk of dementia. Schneider stated, “What we’ve been recommending is that people need to pay attention to all the risk factors that they may have for dementia.”
If you have suffered a TBI because of someone else’s negligence, it’s of the utmost importance to hold them responsible. You may be entitled to file a personal injury lawsuit against the liable party. Brain injury victims are entitled to receive compensation for:
- Lost wages
- Property loss
- Medical bills
- Pain and suffering
- Emotional distress
- Loss of consortium
- Loss of enjoyment of life
- Past and future medical expenses
- Loss of past and future income
West Coast Trial Lawyers Is Here to Help
A brain injury attorney at West Coast Trial Lawyers can help you recover compensation for the losses you have suffered, including medical bills, property damage, lost wages, and more.