Can Head Trauma Accelerate Dementia?

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According to the Alzheimer’s Association, dementia is a general term for loss of memory, language, problem-solving, and other thinking abilities that are severe enough to interfere with daily life. Alzheimer’s is the most common cause of dementia.

A person with a group of conditions characterized by impairment of at least two brain functions, such as memory loss and judgment, will likely be diagnosed with dementia.

There has been extensive research on head injuries and dementia, but there are still many questions that remain unanswered. But regarding how often can a head injury cause dementia: a link has been made between moderate and severe head traumas and an increased risk of Alzheimer’s and other cognitive decline years after the injury.

Older people who have had a moderate TBI have been found to be 2.3 times more likely to develop Alzheimer’s disease than seniors who have not had a brain injury. If they had a severe brain injury, the increased risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease jumps up to 4.5 times more likely.

A surgeon's gloved hand against a white background, holding up the last puzzle piece for a jigsaw puzzle of a brain.

Fortunately, there has been no evidence found that a mild traumatic brain injury increases the victim’s chances of developing dementia. However, newer studies are showing that multiple mild traumatic brain injuries are potentially associated with a greater risk of traumatic encephalopathy syndrome or certain brain changes that occur with chronic traumatic encephalopathy.

People at high risk of multiple mild traumatic brain injuries primarily include anyone involved in sporting activities such as football, hockey, soccer, and boxing.

The symptoms of traumatic encephalopathy syndrome and chronic traumatic encephalopathy can begin years and even decades after the traumatic brain injury. These symptoms include the following:

  • Impulse control problems
  • Impaired judgment
  • Memory loss
  • Confusion
  • Depression
  • Anxiety
  • Aggression
  • Suicidal tendencies
  • Parkinsonism
  • Progressive dementia

Boxers are among the most well-known sufferers of the long-term effects of traumatic brain injuries. Research has shown that they have a higher chance of chronic traumatic encephalopathy-related brain changes, which may be associated with changes in their cognitive functions.

The brain changes these boxers have succumbed to were commonly known as punch drunk syndrome or dementia pugilistica. These brain changes are closely related to the number of rounds the boxers endured and not how many times they were knocked out.

This discovery suggests that repeated mild traumatic brain injuries may be responsible for increasing the risk of developing dementia, even without the loss of consciousness.

Changes in the brain associated with chronic traumatic encephalopathy have been observed in patients with a low number of severe traumatic brain injuries and also in a large number of mild traumatic brain injuries. Any pattern of head trauma seems to have a significant correlation to the development of head injury dementia symptoms later in life.

According to a study published in the Journal of Neurology on March 23, 2016, Wei Li and his colleagues discovered that people with a history of traumatic brain injuries may experience an acceleration of the onset of cognitive impairment or dementia by two or more years. Other studies support these findings and show that traumatic brain injuries are associated with the onset of cognitive impairments and dementia at an earlier age and are a significant risk factor for cognitive decline.

A study performed at Umeå University in Sweden discovered that traumatic brain injuries are a risk factor for dementia. Their research suggests that the chances of receiving a dementia diagnosis are highest during the first year following the head injury.

During this first-year time period, people with traumatic brain injuries are four to six times more likely to be diagnosed with dementia than people who have not had a traumatic brain injury. They also discovered that even mild traumatic brain injuries increase the likelihood of developing dementia even 30 years after the initial injury.

GeroScience published a study in 2021 that shows that people with mild traumatic brain injuries and people with Alzheimer’s disease have similar brain changes. They both have a reduced cortical thickness when compared to people without Alzheimer’s disease or traumatic brain injuries.

This reduction in cortical thickness has been linked to the following symptoms:

  • Memory deficits
  • Difficulty making decisions
  • Impaired verbal fluency
  • Trouble learning new information

Research is still being conducted to help understand the correlation between traumatic brain injuries and dementia. Doctors and scientists are working to determine why people with repeated mild, moderate, and severe traumatic brain injuries have a higher likelihood of developing memory problems, difficulty thinking, and reasoning impairments later in their lives.

Genetic research has found that people with a specific variant of the gene for apolipoprotein E may be more likely to have an increased chance of developing dementia after having suffered a traumatic brain injury. This variant is called APOE e4.

More research is being conducted to fully understand the relationship between the gene variant APOE e4 and the development of dementia in individuals who have experienced a traumatic brain injury.

Dementia Symptoms From a Traumatic Head Injury

Traumatic brain injuries are always serious and have the potential to affect the overall cognitive functioning of the brain, leaving the survivors with life-changing difficulties with thinking, behavior, speech, movement, and learning.

Traumatic brain injuries may cause symptoms of dementia depending on the location of the injury in the brain. These symptoms include the following:

  • Memory deficits
  • Trouble with concentration
  • Attention problems
  • Difficulty speaking
  • Trouble eating or swallowing
  • Balance problems
  • Incoordination

People who develop dementia after a traumatic brain injury often experience difficulties remembering recent events and forming new memories. Long-term memories are not usually affected, but short-term memory becomes a problem.

Traumatic brain injuries often result in temporary or permanent changes in how the victim thinks, acts, moves, speaks, and feels. The victim’s body is also affected. The internal functions that are most often affected are:

  • Regulation of body temperature
  • Sleep
  • Appetite
  • Reproductive abilities
  • Energy levels

The symptoms and signs of a traumatic brain injury may appear immediately after the head injury occurred, or they may take several days or weeks to appear after the injury was experienced.

A TBI is often categorized as either a mild, moderate, or severe brain injury.

How to Reduce Your Risk of Dementia After Brain Injury

There is still no proven method to completely prevent dementia. However, the World Health Organization has recommended some measures that people should take to reduce their risk of developing dementia.

These methods are actually used to treat brain injuries, so your traumatic brain injury treatment plan should already be working to reduce your likelihood of developing dementia. The top four methods for reducing the risk of dementia are as follows:

  • Stay Physically Active. Low-impact exercise increases the flow of blood and nutrients to your brain to promote better brain function. It also improves sleep cycles and mood.
  • Challenge Your Brain. Your brain makes more neural connections when it is stimulated. More neural connections create stronger cognitive functions. Try learning something new, playing musical instruments, playing challenging games, or reading interesting books.
  • Stay Socially Active. People with prolonged social isolation have an increased risk of developing dementia. Socially active people have a stronger cognitive function and a lower risk of developing dementia.
  • Maintain a Healthy Diet for Your Brain. Foods rich in omega-3 and antioxidants promote healthy brain function. Dark, leafy greens, berries, nuts, and whole grains are some examples of foods your brain needs to stay strong and healthy.

Contact the Heavy Hitters to Support Your Case for Compensation

Traumatic brain injuries cause some of the most devastating injuries imaginable. Many people experience long-term symptoms and are at an increased risk of developing dementia later in life.

Victims and their families often feel overwhelmed, isolated, stressed, frustrated, and confused about what to do next to be able to continue with their lives. Personal injury attorneys help by ensuring victims receive full compensation for their injuries, so they can receive the treatment, medication, and care that they need.

By hiring Tatum & Atkinson: The Heavy Hitters, you will have a lawyer who is fully invested in your case. They will ensure a full investigation into the accident that caused your injury.

They will collect evidence to prove negligence and build a strong case using medical evaluations, police reports, and witness statements. The lawyers at Tatum & Atkinson are experienced and will help you determine an accurate assessment of the damages you have suffered.

Traumatic brain injuries affect every aspect of your life, including your finances. Rehabilitation is expensive, and you should not have to worry about being able to afford your treatment, medications, special equipment, or other care that you need as a result of someone else’s negligent actions.

Our lawyers will make sure your compensation is enough to cover everything you need.

You should not have to fight for what you are legally entitled to receive, especially while you are in recovery. Tatum & Atkinson are aggressive and will not stop fighting on your behalf until you recover everything that is rightfully yours.

If you or your loved one has suffered from the effects of a traumatic brain injury or if your loved one has died, you should have all the support you can get. For a free consultation about your case, call (800) LAW-0804 today to get your process started.

When we take your case, we won’t charge you anything until we win or settle it for you.