This blog is part of a brain injury series and focusses on the question of whether there might be a link between traumatic brain injury and dementia.
The research into brain injury and dementia
In recent years, there have been a number of scientific research papers that suggest a causal link between traumatic brain injury and later development of dementia. Although the reasons for this possible link were not completely clear, one suggestion is that traumatic brain injury can lead to a loss of what is known as the “cognitive reserve”. “Cognitive reserve” can be defined as the idea that people develop a reserve of thinking abilities during their lives, which can give them some protection and resilience against losses that occur through ageing.
In 2019, a study of 7,676 professional footballers found that male former professional footballers were 3½ times more likely to die from dementia than the general population.
Important legal case law
In personal injury claims involving severe personal injury, it is not uncommon for claimants’ lawyers to argue that there is a risk of the claimant developing dementia in the future as a result of the brain injury and to argue for what is known as “provisional damages”. Where a court allows a claimant provisional damages, they decide the case on the basis that the specific risk (such as dementia) will not develop in the future, but allow the claimant to come back to the court for more compensation if in the future that risk does materialise.
However, in the recent case of Manuel Mathieu -v- Tony Martin Hinds (February 2022), the court decided not to award the claimant provisional damages for the risk of developing dementia in the future. The court considered the submissions of both parties and the research papers that had been prepared on this subject. It decided that, so far, the research had not shown a clear causal link between traumatic brain injury and dementia. The court found that there were problems with the methodology used in many of the research papers and that the research was not sufficiently rigorous.
The position at present therefore is that it may be difficult successfully to claim provisional damages for the risk of dementia caused by a brain injury. However, it is surely likely that further research will be carried out in this sphere. Further studies may show a clearer link between brain injury and dementia, especially if more rigorous methodology is used by the researchers.
How Moore Barlow can help
Matt Tuff is a senior associate in the Major trauma service department at Moore Barlow. As well as recovering compensation for our clients, Matt places particular emphasis on securing rehabilitation for them at an early stage. He have extensive experience of working closely with expert case managers and rehabilitation companies to secure this goal.