Can a Concussion Really Lead to Dementia?
It’s not just falls that occur later in life that can increase the risk of dementia, as there is also reason to believe that injuries sustained when younger can actually increase the chances of a person developing dementia symptoms.
A new study has suggested that suffering a concussion in your teens or 20s may result in brain damage that can lead to dementia. People in their 30s who had suffered concussions were shown to have thinning brain tissues, similar to those who have Alzheimer’s.
The Boston School of Medicine research brings youth brain health to the forefront, as people that young are typically free of dementia symptoms. The findings are of particular importance to Australian sports such as NRL and AFL, where head injuries are common.
The most important finding is how concussions may influence brain decay and why it is important for it to be assessed and recorded on medical records even if not considered serious.
According the the Mayo Clinic, a severe head injury that knocks you out for more than 24 hours can increase your future dementia risk, and that being unconsciousness for more than 30 minutes, but less than 24 hours, also increases dementia risk by a smaller scale.
Repeated mild injuries may increase risk of future problems with thinking and reasoning. Another recent research even suggests that there may even be a connection between football and soccer and developing dementia.
This particular study began around 40 years ago, with 14 former players taking part. Of the 14, six of them had signs of Alzheimer's disease when they underwent post-mortem examinations.
Four of the former player’s brains were found to have chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE) pathology, which is a possible consequence of repeated impacts to the brain.
However, it should be noted that there are also other factors that contribute to developing dementia aside from injury alone.
Fear of Seeking Help Leading to Recurrent Falls
Falls are not simply just a part of “getting older” as they can be avoided, yet more and more older people are reportedly suffering from falls and fall related injuries. And one type of injuries that is particularly dangerous are head injuries.
Falls occur more often to the elderly, as opposed to younger people, for reasons that can be prevented - as people get older they may have impaired vision, dizziness or other mobility impairments. Older people may not have the strength or agility to find their feet once they start to lose their balance.
When people don’t report or seek help for falls or injuries, it increases the chances of them falling again and sustaining more injuries. What small minor injury they suffer in a mild fall may cause bigger problems later, and larger falls can lead to concussions.
An Ohio State research found that more than a third of older adults who had minor head injuries ended up back in the ER within 90 days.
One theory as to why people may not report their falls is that they fear that family or professionals will intervene and that they will lose their independence. And because of that, they downplay any incidents that occur.
Prevention is Better Than a Cure
There are many things that can be done to decrease the risk of falls. Firstly, it is advised that people have their eyes checked for any vision problems. Make sure where the older person stay is well illuminated, with lights, lamps and clear windows.
It’s also important to prevent falls by removing any tripping hazards. This may include wiring and cords around the home or loose rugs. If their mobility is already slightly impaired, then handrails and grab bars might be of use.
Light exercise has shown to be effective in improving balance and strength, even in the elderly. Things such as gentle yoga and Tai Chi is advised.