Even Minor Head Injuries Boost Risk of Dementia
Survey of 280K veterans turns up sobering results
By Mark Russell,  Newser Staff
Posted Jul 18, 2011 3:42 AM CDT
Updated Jul 18, 2011 6:00 AM CDT
Ryan Lamke was a corporal in the Marine Corps traumatic brain injury, orthopedic injuries to his left arm and post traumatic stress disorder while serving in Iraq.   (.AP Photo/Jose Luis Magana)
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(Newser) – Even mild brain injuries can significantly increase the chance of developing Alzheimer's and other forms of dementia, says the largest brain injury survey ever conducted, and the first to concentrate on veterans. The study examined more than 280,000 veterans who were at least 55 and received care at Veteran Heath Administration hospitals from 1997 to 2000. Of the nearly 5,000 who had suffered a brain injury, 15% developed dementia—more than double the risk of those without brain injury, reports AP. The severity of the injury made no difference in the risk, researchers found.

"Even a concussion or a mild brain injury can put you at risk," says one neuroscientist. While body armor and better in-field treatment is helping save more troops, relatively little is known about the long-term effects of head injuries. "While we don't want people frightened to think they're going to be permanently impaired, a mild traumatic brain injury does not necessarily mean" no long-term problems, says a doctor with the Brain Injury Association of America.