Is there a relationship between TBI and dementia?

Traumatic brain injury (TBI) is a relatively common injury, with an estimated 1.7 to 3.8 million cases in the United States each year. 10% of these cases are related to sports and recreation. Most TBIs don’t impact the patient’s overall quality of life and typically resolve within a few weeks. However, it is possible to develop long-term issues from a TBI, such as migraines, impaired emotion regulation, and other cognitive impairments.

In recent years, there has been new research into the relationship between TBI and dementia developing later in life. Of course, as we get older, the risk of developing dementia increases. And considering the fact that lifespan is increasing, research into this connection is more relevant than ever.

Can a TBI cause dementia?

Genetics is one of the most prevalent risk factors for developing dementia at an older age. However, there are other risk factors to know about. New research shows a possible link between experiencing a TBI and developing frontotemporal dementia (FTD) as an older adult. The researchers also observed that patients who had experienced a TBI developed FTD earlier than other FTD patients.

Other studies have actually found that TBI could lead to other degenerative conditions such as Lewy Body or Parkinson’s Disease. A TBI seems to increase the likelihood of lesions developing near the impacted area of the brain later in life. However, this can develop differently in different individuals as they age. More research is needed to fully understand the connection between traumatic brain injuries and how they affect the brain in the long term.

TBI and dementia in sports

TBIs and their long-term effects have been a prominent topic within the world of sports for many years. In 1928, a pathologist named Dr. Harrison Martland coined the term “punch drunk” to describe the effects experienced by boxers who had endured multiple brain injuries. He noted the likely relationship between these injuries and the development of lesions in nearby areas of the brain later in life.

When it comes to sports, athletes should be aware of the potential long-term effects of a TBI. When you’re young, it may feel relatively easy to recover after an injury. However, brain injuries can sometimes have unexpected repercussions and cause impairments to cognitive health as the athlete gets older.


TBIs often occur in sports, but they can happen to anyone. As researchers work on new insights, everyone should take good care of their brains and be aware of the potential link between TBI and dementia. 

Not all TBIs are the same. If you have experienced a TBI, it’s important to see a provider as soon as possible who can give the proper care and rehabilitation for your specific situation. If you suspect you have a TBI, seek medical assistance.

Aly Castle

Aly is HappyNeuron Pro’s Content Specialist. She is passionate about mental health and well-being and loves utilizing her design background to share important cognitive information clearly and understandably.

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