Athletes and other individuals in Valley Center who sustain concussions and other traumatic brain injuries (TBIs) may be more likely to develop early-onset Alzheimer’s disease, according to a recent study reported in Science Daily. Although the researchers behind the study emphasize that their results should not prevent parents from allowing their children to play sports and to engage in other extracurricular activities, it is nonetheless important to recognize that, for the first time, there is a clear link between TBI and Alzheimer’s disease.
If you want to read the study in detail, you can find the results published in the peer-reviewed journal Neuropsychology. In the meantime, what else should Southern California residents know about the new study?
Details of the TBI and Alzheimer’s Study
The recent study was conducted by researchers at the Peter O’Donnell Jr. Brain Institute at UT Southwestern. Dr. Munro Cullum, the lead researcher on the study who also works as a neuropsychologist, oversaw a team that analyzed approximately 2,100 cases of traumatic brain injury and dementia. More specifically, the researchers assessed individuals who sustained a TBI that resulted in “loss of consciousness greater than five minutes” who were also “diagnosed with dementia 2 ½ years earlier than those who had not experienced TBI.”
This study was the first of its kind to use “autopsy-confirmed cases of Alzheimer’s disease” in order to assess the connection between dementia and head trauma. What did they find? In brief, the authors of the study concluded that there is a correlation between sustaining a TBI and developing Alzheimer’s earlier on. Until this study, scientists had explored the links between concussions and dementia, but they could not confirm a clear connection between the two.
Brain Injury Victims may Develop Dementia Earlier Than Others, but We Still Need More Research
How much earlier can a TBI victim begin developing signs of Alzheimer’s than a person who never suffered a brain injury? Previous studies have suggested that a TBI diagnosis “can accelerate onset of Alzheimer’s by up to nine years,” but Dr. Cullum and others emphasize that we need more research on this topic in order to answering many remaining questions. For example, scientists do not yet know what it is that happens in the brain after a TBI that contributes to dementia, or what other factors may be involved in causing dementia after a TBI. For instance, are some TBI sufferers more susceptible to dementia than others? It is possible that the level of inflammation from a TBI plays a role in determining whether dementia will occur, as well as how early, but genetic factors also may be involved.
All of these questions require additional research. According to Dr. Cullum, though, “solving these mysteries may take decades given the lack of detailed TBI history being kept on many patients.” In other words, there is not always sufficient information about TBI patients for current researchers to use the available information to draw conclusions. In the meantime, as we noted above, Dr. Cullum underscores that parents should not panic to the point that they do not allow their children to play any sports at all. While we do know there is a connection between TBI and dementia, we cannot yet say for certain how, when, and why one causes the other.
Speak with a Valley Center Brain Injury Attorney
If you or your child recently suffered a concussion or another form of TBI, you should speak with a Valley Center brain injury attorney to learn more about your options. Contact the Walton Law Firm to speak with an advocate today.
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(image courtesy of Joao Victor Xavier)