New study suggests traumatic brain injuries may increase the risk of developing Alzheimer’s earlier in life

A new US scientific study has found an increased risk of earlier-onset Alzheimer’s disease as a result of concussions and other traumatic brain injuries.

Conducted by UT Southwestern’s Peter O’Donnell Jr. Brain Institute, the study analysed more than 2,100 cases of people who sustained traumatic brain injury (TBI) with loss of consciousness greater than five minutes, and found that those later diagnosed with dementia developed the condition two and a half years sooner on average.

Published in Neuropsychology, the study differs from previous research which has suggested that TBI and Alzheimer’s share no relationship at all.

However, earlier studies reportedly used less definitive methods of diagnosing dementia, which increased the likelihood that they included data from patients who didn’t have Alzheimer’s disease.

Despite reaching a fairly clear conclusion, the researchers aren’t able to pinpoint the specific processes by which TBI is linked with Alzheimer’s disease, meaning that they are not yet able to predict which patients more likely to develop dementia later in life.

“We need to be aware that brain injury is a risk factor, but parents shouldn’t keep their kids out of sports because they fear a concussion will lead to dementia,” said Dr Munro Cullum, a neuropsychologist who oversaw the study.

“This is a piece to the puzzle, a step in the direction of understanding how the two are linked.”

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