Home » Alzheimer's and Dementias » Concussions can lead to dementia

Concussions can lead to dementia

The “60 Minutes” TV program recently ran a segment on long-term effects of concussions sustained in sports.  First associated with pro boxers, chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE) is a condition seen only in people who suffer repeated dazing blows to the head.  It is  diagnosed after death by examining brain tissue for abnormal proteins that show up as dark brown pigment in brain sections.  These proteins are neurofibrillary tangles of tau, which are also characteristic of Alzheimer’s and other dementing illnesses.  CTE has been diagnosed in the brains of several deceased pro football players over the past few years.

Dr. Ann McKee, a neuropathologist at Boston University School of Medicine, has been working on a brand new area of research on the brain that has provided physiological proof of brain disease in athletes who have suffered concussions.  …

“I’ve looked at brains from people that have lived to be 110. And you just don’t see anything like this, what we see in these athletes,” she told Simon

Even more troubling, she says, CTE actually progresses undetected for years, silently eating away at brain cells, until it causes dementia and other cognitive problems.

“It seems to be triggered by trauma that occurs in a person’s youth; their teens, their 20s, even their 30s. But it doesn’t show up for decades later,” she explained. “People think it’s a psychological disease or maybe an adjustment reaction, maybe a mid-life sort of crisis type of thing. But actually, they have structural disease. They have brain disease.”

Dr. McKee’s research found that athletes in any contact sport are at risk of permanent brain damage.

You can see the video and read more at  http://www.cbsnews.com/stories/2009/10/08/60minutes/main5371686.shtml

In retrospect, I sure am glad dear old Dad (a general practioner) forbade me from playing contact sports while growing up!

3 thoughts on “Concussions can lead to dementia

    • Hi Marilyn,

      Alcohol-related dementia is the 3rd of 4th most common form of dementia in elderly people. Alcohol is a neurotoxin, directly impacting nerve cells. Brain imaging studies show that any amount of alcohol consumption can reduce brain size. Research with rodents indicates that continuous drinking for as little as eight weeks can produce deficits in learning and memory that last up to 12 weeks after drinking stopped.

      Excessive drinking (e.g., more that six drinks daily for men, more than four for women) over a period of years can lead to alcohol related dementia, which affects the nervous system throughout the body, not just the brain. Patients display difficulties with confusion, learning new things, language problems, memory and complex motor tasks like dressing. They may invent detailed stories to cover the gaps in the memory. Personality changes may also occur.

      Alcohol related dementia may be complicated by nutritional deficiencies, since heavy drinkers often do not eat properly. Alcohol-caused liver and heart damage can also reduce brain function.

      Alcohol abuse will worsen symptoms in patients who already have other forms of dementia.

      Patients who stop drinking will stop the disease process, and may recover some brain function. However, some damage might be permanent.

      More information is available at

      Hope this helps.


      • Thank you for this information. It is what I suspected based on personal observation. (Side comment:) Six drinks for a man seems excessive to me. Brings up the questions of what body size/mass he is.

        In the case of the whom person I am concerned about, the number of drinks ranges up to 2 cases a day of Miller light beer. He is what I have been told is a “black-out drunk.” We have had more evidence of this recently. Very disturbing. I see no stopping of the process for him.

        Based on things we see at our business, he may also have OCD. I suppose that this could at least in part drive the drinking.

        Obviously, things are not improving, and so we will have to take decisive measures to move him off our property. I am concerned that he will become violent.

        Again,thanks for the direction and the link.


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