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Injury-Induced Dementia: Exploring the Long-Term Risks of Traumatic Brain Injuries (TBIs)

Injury-Induced Dementia: Exploring the Long-Term Risks of Traumatic Brain Injuries (TBIs)

As we discussed in a recent article recognizing March as Brain Injury Awareness Month, nearly 2.5 million Americans suffer traumatic brain injuries (TBIs) every year, resulting in dangerous immediate impacts including concussions, brain damage, or even potentially devastating extended periods of unconsciousness called comas.

But more tragically, sometimes those initial TBI effects are followed by the onset of particularly cruel long-term conditions such as dementia, Parkinson’s disease, and Alzheimer’s disease, all of which ultimately can become totally debilitating.

It’s the horrible, long-term, life-altering impacts of those subsequent illnesses related to TBIs – which might not become apparent for months or even many years following a brain injury – that we’ll discuss in this article. It’s crucially important to note that as personal injury attorneys we regularly work with clients who’ve suffered from easily observable injuries such as broken bones, whiplash, lacerations, spinal damage, or other types of harm requiring emergency medical care. But we also understand that insidious, closed-head brain injuries – some of which only manifest themselves after considerable time – can be even more damaging. So, let’s talk about some circumstances that can lead to these conditions, how they differ from one another, and what you can do if you or someone you care about have been affected by them.


Common Causes of TBIs

Research reported by the Brain Trauma Foundation indicates that there are four leading causes of TBIs nationwide – falling, motor vehicle crashes, assaults, and being hit by or colliding with solid objects. We encounter most of these types of incidents in our legal practice, but slip-and-fall injuries and car/truck accidents are far and away the most common situations resulting in severe brain injuries to our clients. Other issues causing TBIs include sports injuries – with the NFL taking center stage in recent years as retired football stars began to exhibit symptoms of long-term brain damage resulting in dementia and other neurological diseases. While those athletes’ stories have made national headlines, especially Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy (CTE) affecting athletes who’ve sustained repeated head trauma, it’s the more frequent experiences of everyday people that concern us in our daily efforts to help accident victims. Let’s take a moment to describe what can happen to Michiganders who are affected by the long-term impacts of traumatic brain injuries.


What is Dementia and How Is It Related to TBIs?

Memory issues, learning disabilities, and mental processing losses resulting from TBIs can be broadly classified as common symptoms of dementia. Researchers from the University of Washington School of Medicine noted that “even a single mild TBI was associated with a significantly higher risk of dementia.” This can lead us to conclude that experiencing a traumatic brain injury in just one car accident, or by hitting one’s head once in a slip-and-fall incident, may someday result in the onset of dementia or related symptoms long after the triggering event took place. That’s further backed up by the research, which showed people who experienced a brain injury in their 20s had a 60% increase in the risk of developing dementia in their 50s. Furthermore, multiple TBIs added an even greater likelihood to the risk of being stricken with dementia, making it essential to avoid additional head trauma if you’ve experienced just a single concussion. A study reported by the National Institutes of Health also supports that conclusion, noting “One of the most feared long-term consequences of TBIs is dementia, as multiple epidemiologic studies show that experiencing a TBI in early or midlife is associated with an increased risk of dementia in late life. The best data indicate that moderate and severe TBIs increase risk of dementia between 2-and 4-fold.”


Is Parkinson’s Disease Related to TBIs?

As with dementia, this degenerative condition – with which notable celebrities including Michael J. Fox (at just 29 years old) and the late Muhammed Ali (at age 42) have been diagnosed – seems to be closely related to experiencing significant brain injuries (TBIs) along with other possible causes, according to the Mayo Clinic. Unlike dementia, which might not be obvious on the surface, the National Institute on Aging states that Parkinson’s is evidenced by some very conspicuous physical symptoms, including hand, arm, jaw, or leg tremors; muscle stiffness; impaired balance; problems swallowing; and speech difficulties. But there are also a number of other early symptoms of Parkinson’s that might be less evident, including losing your sense of smell, a drop in your voice’s tone or pitch, changes in the size of your handwriting, or even constipation among other signs.


What About Alzheimer’s Disease and TBIs?

There are many theories about the root causes of Alzheimer’s. The Mayo Clinic notes that head trauma may be one of them, citing studies that found people 50 years of age or older who’ve suffered from just one TBI demonstrated an increased risk of developing both dementia and Alzheimer’s disease, and that individuals who had experienced multiple brain injuries or more extreme TBIs had an even higher Alzheimer’s risk. Other possible causes of Alzheimer’s beyond physical injuries to the brain include various genetic predispositions including Down Syndrome, or being exposed to certain environmental factors, among them air pollution, magnetic fields, pesticides, or even having either excessive or insufficient amounts of several metals including zinc, aluminum, and manganese present in the body.


Take These Steps to Prevent TBIs and Protect Your Rights

As the National Science Foundation notes, there are currently no effective methods of treating the disabilities caused by traumatic brain injuries after they’ve occurred. Instead, prevention is the best way to avoid the negative consequences of TBIs. Helmets can help – whether you’re playing a contact sport or riding a bicycle – but they don’t offer guaranteed protection from severe impacts. And, of course, wearing your seatbelt and having automotive airbags can help protect your head in a car crash. While most slip-and-fall accidents are totally unpredictable, you can take some steps to avoid falling by, for example, choosing shoes with good treads, wearing glasses if you have poor eyesight, and using a cane if you’re unsteady on your feet.

If you or someone you care about have suffered a traumatic brain injury, quickly seek first aid or other medical attention to deal with the immediate aftermath. But remember that there’s also the possibility that a TBI might result in negative effects that won’t emerge for quite some time. That’s why it’s important to have your medical condition documented immediately following a TBI to protect yourself and your family going forward. Remember that Michigan has a three-year statute of limitations for personal injury cases, which makes it vital to act quickly if you even suspect you might be developing cognitive issues following a TBI-related injury. To safeguard your right to file a lawsuit, contact us at 855-MIKE-WINS (855-645-3946), and ask us to become your attorneys of record right away.

Injury-Induced Dementia: Exploring the Long-Term Risks of Traumatic Brain Injuries (TBIs)

Content checked by Mike Morse, personal injury attorney with Mike Morse Injury Law Firm. Mike Morse is the founder of Mike Morse Law Firm, the largest personal injury law firm in Michigan. Since being founded in 1995, Mike Morse Law Firm has grown to 150 employees, served 25,000 clients, and collected more than $1 billion for victims of auto, truck and motorcycle accidents. The main office is in Southfield, MI but you can also find us in Detroit, Sterling Heights and many other locations.