We all fear developing some form of dementia when we get older. Alzheimer’s disease and similar conditions can rob us of the golden years we hope to enjoy, by taking away our memory, cognition and ability to live independently.

Though researchers around the world are looking for ways to treat or cure dementia, there is still a great deal we don’t know about these neurological disorders. However, a new study suggests that head trauma, even a relatively mild one, can raise the chances that a senior citizen develops dementia.

Researchers examined the records of nearly 52,000 visits to California emergency rooms from 2005 to 2011. All of the visits were by people over age 55 who had suffered various traumatic injuries in 2005 or 2006.

Eight percent of those who had sustained a mild to moderate injury to their brain in those two years later developed dementia, compared with under 6 percent of patients whose injury in 2005-2006 had been to another body part. This suggests a significantly higher chance of dementia among former traumatic brain injury (TBI) patients, the study’s lead author said.

It could be that our brains’ ability to recover from a TBI, even a relatively mild one, fades as we grow older. Brain injuries at any age increases the risk of dementia late in life, the author said, but younger brains may be more resilient, at least to mild concussion and similarly moderate trauma.

A brain injury can be highly debilitating at any age, even if it does not trigger dementia. Careless drivers and similarly negligent people cause brain injury to innocent people all the time, often causing them permanent disability.