Epidemiology of mild traumatic brain injury and neurodegenerative disease

Mol Cell Neurosci. 2015 May;66(Pt B):75-80. doi: 10.1016/j.mcn.2015.03.001. Epub 2015 Mar 5.


Every year an estimated 42 million people worldwide suffer a mild traumatic brain injury (MTBI) or concussion. More severe traumatic brain injury (TBI) is a well-established risk factor for a variety of neurodegenerative diseases including Alzheimer's disease, Parkinson's disease, and amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS). Recently, large epidemiological studies have additionally identified MTBI as a risk factor for dementia. The role of MTBI in risk of PD or ALS is less well established. Repetitive MTBI and repetitive sub-concussive head trauma have been linked to increased risk for a variety of neurodegenerative diseases including chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE). CTE is a unique neurodegenerative tauopathy first described in boxers but more recently described in a variety of contact sport athletes, military veterans, and civilians exposed to repetitive MTBI. Studies of repetitive MTBI and CTE have been limited by referral bias, lack of consensus clinical criteria for CTE, challenges of quantifying MTBI exposure, and potential for confounding. The prevalence of CTE is unknown and the amount of MTBI or sub-concussive trauma exposure necessary to produce CTE is unclear. This review will summarize the current literature regarding the epidemiology of MTBI, post-TBI dementia and Parkinson's disease, and CTE while highlighting methodological challenges and critical future directions of research in this field. This article is part of a Special Issue entitled SI:Traumatic Brain Injury.

Keywords: Chronic traumatic encephalopathy; Concussion; Epidemiology; Mild traumatic brain injury; Neurodegenerative disease; Traumatic brain injury.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Autopsy
  • Brain Injuries / epidemiology*
  • Humans
  • Neurodegenerative Diseases / epidemiology*
  • Prevalence
  • Risk
  • Risk Factors