Traumatic Brain Injury and Dementia

This article references a study published in Lancet Psychiatry, April 2018

The long term consequences of Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI) are very much in the news at the moment with both footballers and boxers coming forward to say that they believe their poor mental health and (sometimes) impaired cognitive function has been affected by repeated or severe blows to the head. Now a new major study from Denmark offers some interesting insights.

  • The study looked at nearly 2.8 million people aged 50 and over.
  • 4.7% of people in the study had suffered at least one TBI.
  • They reviewed data going back 36 years.

Jesse R. Fann, MD, MPH, professor of psychiatry and behavioral sciences, University of Washington, Seattle, said “Although their risk is elevated, a person who sustains a TBI is not guaranteed to develop dementia later in life”

However some strong indications came out of the study:

  • The risk of developing Dementia or Alzhiemers is increased if the person incurs repeated TBI’s.
  • The risk also increases if the person was younger when they incurred the first TBI.
  • The survey acknowledged that further research is required; preferably from a different sample, due to huge improvements in survival rates for TBI over the last 36 years.

Fann goes on to state; and this is the part that attracted my attention, that many of the factors that can mitigate the potential of developing either Dementia or Alzhiemers are the same as those recommended for improving overall mental health:

  • limiting alcohol and tobacco use
  • engaging in regular exercise
  • preventing obesity, and treating hypertension, diabetes and depression.
  • Use of cognitive rehabilitation strategies 

These are really long term studies that take decades to see quantifiable results – hopefully the current increase in Mental Health Awareness will mean that future generations receive better and more appropriate care – and that as we come to understand the risks involved we can change the outcomes for those affected.