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New study strengthens links between brain injury and dementia

We've all become more cognizant of the short-term and long-term impact of traumatic brain injury (TBI), thanks to researchers around the world and professional athletes who have donated their brains for study after their death. Approximately 50 million people around the world experience TBIs every year.

One of the potential long-term impacts of TBI is dementia -- including Alzheimer's disease. Now a recently-published study, one of the largest of its kind, sheds more light on the connection between brain injury and dementia. In looking at data on 2.8 million patients, researchers found that, on average, people who had suffered a brain injury were 24 percent more likely to develop dementia than those who hadn't suffered one.

The chances of developing dementia varied depending on the severity and number of brain injuries, as well as the age at which the TBI occurred. For example:

  • People with a single TBI categorized as "severe" had a 35 percent higher risk of dementia.
  • Those with one "mild" TBI had a 17 percent higher risk.
  • People with at least two TBIs were 33 percent more likely to suffer from dementia.
  • Those with five or more injuries had a whopping 183 percent greater chance of developing dementia.
  • People who suffered a TBI in their 20s were 60 percent more likely to have dementia by the time they reached their 50s.

The study's lead author said that when reviewing the findings, "What surprised us was that even a single mild TBI was associated with a significantly higher risk of dementia."

Of course, not everyone who suffers a TBI is destined to develop dementia. However, the fact is that, globally, 47 million people suffer from the condition. If people know that a brain injury can increase their chances of being part of this group, they can take steps to minimize other risk factors such as obesity, tobacco use, diabetes and lack of exercise.

When someone is taking civil legal action against a person or entity responsible for his or her brain injury, it may be difficult to factor the increased risk of dementia into the compensation you're seeking. However, your attorney can provide guidance on what factors to consider when calculating the amount of damages to ask for.

Source: U.S. News & World Report, "Study: Traumatic Brain Injuries Linked to Dementia," Alexa Lardieri, April 11, 2018

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