It doesn’t matter if you hit your head when you fell on a patch of ice in a parking lot or got knocked nearly unconscious when you were tackled during a football game. Either way, your risk of ending up with dementia just doubled.
Doctors have known for a while that repeated head injuries can cause degenerative brain disease. The troubles of legendary boxers like Muhammad Ali, for example, are well-documented. However, medical science has only recently come to understand exactly how serious even a single, relatively mild blow to the head can be when it comes to long-term damage.
A large-scale study of veterans has now demonstrated the dire effects of head injuries on the brain. The news is pretty grim. While mild head injuries, like those received simply from the shock of firing a shoulder weapon, doubled a veteran’s risk of eventually being diagnosed with dementia, a brief loss of consciousness increased the risk even more. For victims knocked unconscious for several hours, the eventual risk of dementia nearly quadruples.
Doctors aren’t sure why the risk increases, either. They think it may have to do with the effect of trauma on the development of “waste” proteins in the brain. The operating theory is that brains lose their ability to rid the body of these proteins when they’re overproduced as a result of trauma and that somehow leads to dementia.
Regardless of the reason that head injuries lead to dementia, the information is significant for anyone who has suffered a head injury in an accident. Victims who are inclined to brush off a “bump on the head” need to take the issue seriously and get medical attention to try to lessen the long-term effects of the injury.
Victims should also discuss the possibility of long-term consequences from their head injury with their doctors. It could be an important part of their case later if they decide to seek compensation in court.
Source: Quartz, “A single traumatic brain injury may double the risk of dementia,” Katherine Ellen Foley, May 07, 2018