Veterans With Traumatic Brain Injury More Likely to Develop Dementia Later in Life

brainDoes receiving a traumatic brain injury (TBI) in combat increase a veteran’s likelihood of developing later cognitive problems? According to a new study, there is a clear link between the two.

The study, which was conducted by the San Francisco Veterans Affairs Medical Center and other leading bodies in the field, and published in Neurology this June, took a comprehensive look at 188,764 veterans who, at the beginning of the study, had not developed dementia; 1,229 of those participating had been diagnosed with TBI. The researchers tracked these veterans, and their medical history, for nine years.

The study indicated that 16% of veterans with brain injuries developed dementia, in comparison to only 10% of veterans who did not have brain injuries, but still developed the condition. Additionally, veterans with TBI developed dementia two years earlier — at an average age of 78.5 years — than veterans who did not suffer from TBI, and who developed dementia at an average age of 80.7 years. The majority of veterans developed Alzheimer’s, specifically, which remains one of the most prevalent forms of dementia in the U.S.

Our results suggest that TBI in older veterans may predispose toward development of symptomatic dementia and raise concern about the potential long-term consequences of TBI in younger veterans and civilians,” note the researchers in their report. Deborah Barnes, one of the study’s researchers, says that their findings indicate that injury makes the brain more vulnerable to dementia.

The comprehensive research highlights the need for a better understanding of how traumatic injuries can effect a veteran’s quality of life after they leave the service.

“Unfortunately, what is often missed is how impacting an injury in the military can be for a veteran,” says Matt Hill, Attorney at Hill and Ponton. “This research shows that head traumas in service affect the veteran late into life. The damage done to the brain through the TBI in service is permanent and leads to the brain atrophying way before a normal brain would.”

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