JUST three knocks to the head over a lifetime is enough to raise dementia risk, a study found.
Experts at Oxford University studied 15,000 over-50s and found concussions are linked to lower brain power in later life.
Brain function was worse in people who had suffered three mild or moderate bonks on the head, or just a single severe one.
Scientists warned people to consider winding down risky hobbies or jobs if they receive a head injury.
Study author Dr Vanessa Raymont said: “The more times you injure your brain in life, the worse your brain function could be as you age.
“We know that head injuries are a major risk factor for dementia.”
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The NHS says you should go to A&E if a blow knocks you out or triggers vomiting, memory loss, mood swings or an unstoppable headache.
High-risk accidents could include hitting your head in a fall, a sporting clash in rugby or football, or a car crash.
Evidence shows that even lots of small impacts can trigger brain damage in later life, with ex-footballers including Jeff Astle diagnosed with dementia in retirement.
Rugby Football Union bosses are considering lowering the tackle height limit to the waist in amateur leagues in a bid to reduce head injuries.
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The Oxford study asked more 15,000 Brits aged 50 to 90 how many head injuries they had suffered and then compared their brain test scores.
Results revealed in the Journal of Neurotrauma found scores were “significantly worse” in people who reported more impacts.
They had shorter attention spans, slower reaction speed and were less able to complete complex thinking tasks.
Dr Helen Brooker, study co-author from Exeter University, said: “We’re learning that life events that might seem insignificant can have an impact on the brain.
“Our findings indicate that rehab should focus on key functions such as attention and completion of complex tasks, which are susceptible to long-term damage.”
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