My dad suffered a head injury while in the service in 1951. He was a paratrooper and, during a practice jump, he hit his head very hard when he landed. His helmet was crushed. He spent three days in the hospital at Ft. Bragg and then had to rest for two weeks. He also had stitches in his head. Now, as an elderly man, he has developed dementia. His parents didn't have dementia in their old age. I have read recently of a new study out that suggests that one serious hit to the head like that could bring on dementia later in life. Any thoughts on that possibility?
A recent review of the literature performed by the Institute of Medicine (IOM) found that a history of traumatic brain injury associated with loss of consciousness is associated with development of dementia later in life. However, this needs to be interpreted cautiously, as it does not imply cause and effect.
What is does mean is that evidence has shown that people who sustained a TBI earlier in life appear to be diagnosed with dementia more frequently later in life as compared to the general population (i.e. those who do not have a history of TBI). It does not mean that everyone with TBI will develop dementia or that all dementia is caused by TBI. Equally important, one cannot state that a TBI has caused the dementia. There are multiple theories why this association exists, but a definitive answer remains elusive.
Steven Flanagan, MD is professor and chairman of the Department of Rehabilitation Medicine, New York University School of Medicine, and the medical director of the Rusk Institute of Rehabilitation Medicine, New York University Langone Medical Center.