Thursday, 18 October, 2018

Very big risk of dementia after concussion

Because fruit flies grow old quickly observing them allows researchers to rapidly study the long-term consequences of traumatic brain injury Very big risk of dementia after concussion
Anna Jefferson | 09 May, 2018, 13:13

Even head blows that do not result in loss of consciousness may cause brain changes that increase the risk of dementia, new research has found. Considering this study is just the latest in a growing body of work showing the horrific effects of even those head injuries we used to think were "mild", it's safe to say that protecting your head in any setting is a good idea.

More than two-thirds of traumatic brain injuries in England and Wales are classed as "mild". These risks were higher for those who lost conciousness (2.51) and were almost four times higher (3.77) for those with the more serious moderate-to-severe traumatic brain injury.

Last month, the same research team reported a link between concussion and Parkinson's disease - putting yet more pressure on the Army and sports leagues to confront the life-threatening damage of head hits.

The first listed all-era veterans whose traumatic brain injuries (concussion or worse) could have occurred during civilian or military life. Researchers who examined the medical records of more than 350,000 Americans who served during the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan found that men and women who experienced at least one mild TBI were more than twice as likely as their uninjured peers to develop dementia after they retired from the military.

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The four-year study, published in JAMA Neurology, involved 357,558 USA veterans with an average age of 49; 91 percent were male and 72 percent were white.

"There's something about trauma that may hasten the development of neurodegenerative conditions", Kristine Yaffe, a University of California-San Francisco psychiatrist and lead investigator on the study, said in a statement. They found someone's risk of dementia nearly quadrupled if they had suffered a moderate to severe brain injury. It's unclear how this happens, but one working theory is that somehow these injuries either cause an overproduction of normal waste proteins, or make it impossible to clear these proteins, which eventually lead to some forms of dementia, like Alzheimer's disease.

Brain injuries are most common in people aged between 80 and 90, who are vulnerable to falls, and also peak in those aged 20 to 30, who suffer around 15 per cent of these injuries, often from traffic collisions.

The study's lead author, Dr Deborah Barnes, said: 'The findings in both groups were similar, indicating that concussions occurring in combat areas were as likely to be linked to dementia as those concussions affecting the general population'.

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