Prior Brian Injury in Older Veterans Tied to Dementia Risk

Also, former football players with brain injury at higher risk of cognitive impairment

MONDAY, July 18 (HealthDay News) -- U.S. veterans who experienced traumatic brain injuries and retired National Football League (NFL) players may be at a higher risk of cognitive impairment and dementia, according to two studies presented at the 2011 Alzheimer's Association International Conference, held from July 16 to 21 in Paris.

In one study, Kristine Yaffe, M.D., Professor of the University of California in San Francisco, and colleagues reviewed medical records of 281,540 U.S. veterans, aged 55 years and older, with at least one inpatient or outpatient visit during 1997 to 2000 and a follow-up during 2001 to 2007, and who did not have a dementia diagnosis upon start of study. The investigators found that the risk of dementia was 15.3 percent in those with a traumatic brain injury diagnosis, compared with 6.8 percent in those without a traumatic brain injury diagnosis (adjusted hazard ratio, 2.3), which was significant for all traumatic brain injury subtypes.

In another study, Christopher Randolph, Ph.D., from the Loyola University Medical Center in Chicago, characterized MCI in retired NFL players. A neurocognitive test battery was used to compare retired NFL players with 41 demographically-matched and cognitively intact controls, and 81 patients with amnestic MCI. The author found that the prevalence of MCI was higher in former athletes compared to predictions from epidemiological studies. Acquired impairment was confirmed in the sample of athletes with MCI, which more clearly displayed impairment than the demographically matched group.

"MCI may be more common in retired NFL athletes than in the general population, although more systematic studies are necessary to confirm this. The similarity of the neurocognitive profiles between the athletes and clinical cases suggests that the etiology of the MCI in the retired players may be due to diminished cerebral reserve allowing the earlier clinical expression of MCI," Randolph writes.

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