Head injuries from war and football may increase dementia risk

Friday, July 29, 2011 by: Mary West
Tags: head injuries, dementia, health news

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(NaturalNews) Head injuries incurred in war and also in football may significantly increase the risk of developing dementia later in life, according to two recent studies: The Australian reports.

Research at San Francisco Veterans Association Medical Center found that older war veterans who sustained traumatic brain injuries (TBI) on the battlefield are at double risk of contracting dementia. Investigators analyzed the medical records of over 280,000 US veterans aged 55 and older and found the incidence of dementia was 15.3% in ex-soldiers who had suffered TBI as opposed to 6.8% in former solders who had not.

Author of the California study, Kristine Yaffe, states that the issue is of great import, due to the widespread prevalence of traumatic brain injuries. Approximately 1.5 million Americans experience this type of injury every year, mostly as a result of falls and car crashes. These injuries are also referred to as the signature wound of the fighting in Iraq and Afghanistan.

The investigation indicates that the death and injury of axons, which are structures that form connections among nerve cells in the brain, may be the causative factor of the increased dementia risk. When head injuries traumatize axons, these structures swell from the accumulation of proteins called beta-amyloid. These proteins are an indicator of Alzheimer's, as amyloid plaques are present in the brains of those with this disease. Researchers feel it is possible that even a single incidence of TBI can produce damage that would result in earlier manifestation of Alzheimer's symptoms: Internal Medicine News notes.

It appears that the possible link between TBI and increased dementia risk was found not only in war veterans, but in ex-football players as well. In a second study, scientists at Loyola University Medical Center in Chicago discovered retired pro football players may have a very high risk of cognitive impairment that they postulated is likely due to repetitive head trauma.

In this study, researchers evaluated 500 former football players, having a mean age of 61, and found that 35% displayed indications of possible dementia. These results contrast with the fact that only 13% of Americans over the age of 65 suffer from some form of Alzheimer's.

The investigators analyzed the data further to identify those with mild cognitive disorder (MCI), which is a condition which frequently leads to advanced dementia or Alzheimer's. Results of neurological and psychological tests of the ex-football players were compared to two control groups: adults with similar demographic characteristics who were cognitively normal and non-athlete adults diagnosed with MCI. The former athletes were definitely cognitively impaired in comparison to normal adults. Furthermore, the athletes showed only slightly less impairment than the non-athlete group diagnosed with MCI, even though they were much younger.

Yaffe states that scientists are acquiring a greater understanding that head injury is an important risk factor for later contracting dementia.

About the author

Mary West is the creator of a natural healing website where she focuses on solutions to health problems that work without side effects. You may visit her website to learn more at

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