HealthDay News — A mild concussion after age 65 may increase the risk of developing dementia, according to a new study published in JAMA Neurology.

Raquel Gardner, MD, of the San Francisco Veterans Affairs Medical Center, and colleagues tracked 51,799 emergency department patients in California from 2005 to 2011. All had suffered traumatic injuries of various types in 2005 or 2006 and were over the age of 55.

The researchers found that 8.4% of those with moderate to mild traumatic brain injuries went on to develop dementia, compared to 5.9% of those with injuries outside the brain. At 55 and older, moderate to severe brain injury was associated with increased risk of dementia. But by 65 and older, even mild brain injury increased the dementia risk. More than one traumatic brain injury was associated with more than doubled risk of dementia.

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One limitation of the study is that it didn’t include information on family history, prior illnesses, and other head injuries, the authors acknowledged. It also doesn’t identify the kind of dementia that developed or say anything about concussions in young people or the possible benefit of helmets.

“Based on other studies, however, I would certainly counsel people of all ages to wear helmets whenever they are engaging in activities that are high-risk for traumatic brain injury or concussion such as downhill skiing, biking, or tackle football,” Gardner told HealthDay.


Gardner RC. JAMA Neurol. 2014; doi:10.1001/jamaneurol.2014.266.