A new study is suggests that getting a mild concussion after the age of 65 increases an individual’s risk of getting dementia.
According to lead author Dr. Raquel Gardner, clinical research fellow at the San Francisco Veterans Affairs Medical Center, the results of the study were surprising because it suggested that older brains may be particularly vulnerable to injuries regardless of the severity.
Earlier studies have proven that traumatic injuries to the brain early in life increases risks of dementia developing, but establishing whether or not late-life injuries pose the same risks has been more difficult.
Researchers tracked close to 52,000 emergency room visits between 2005 and 2011 in California. All subjects suffered various types of traumatic injuries in 2005 or 2006 and were aged over 55.
Less than six percent of non-brain injuries developed dementia, while over eight percent of those with mild to moderate traumatic brain injuries did. These results were for patients 55 years old and above. By the time they reach at least 65 years old, even mild injury to the brain already increases dementia risk.
“If a person falls and gets a traumatic brain injury, then they may be 26 percent more likely to get dementia than if they had fallen and broken their arm or leg,” said Gardner. As for those who suffered more than one traumatic injury to the brain, dementia risk more than doubles.
The study was published in the journal JAMA Neurology.