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That worries Ryan Lamke, 26, a medically retired Marine who lives in suburban Washington, D.C. He suffered a traumatic brain injury from multiple blast exposures in 2005 in Iraq. “I’m diagnosed as a moderate (brain injury) but it feels like a mild,” said Lamke, who relies on electronic calendars and other gadgets to stay organized. He’s a student at Georgetown University and works part-time as a government relations intern for a private firm.

“I have to read for twice as long as my classmates” to accomplish what’s needed, he said. “I’ve not found a doctor so far who can give me a true understanding of what’s going to happen 20 or 30 years down the road.”

Troops will need close monitoring in the years ahead and treatment for post-traumatic stress, depression and other conditions that can lead to cognitive problems, experts said.

“While we don’t want people frightened to think they’re going to be permanently impaired, a mild traumatic brain injury does not necessarily mean” no long-term problems, said Dr. Gregory O’Shanick, a psychiatrist and chairman of the board of the advocacy group Brain Injury Association of America.

The other study is follow-up work on nearly 4,000 retired National Football League players surveyed in 2001. New surveys were sent in 2008 to 905 of them who were over 50. Of those who responded, 513 had spouses who could complete the part assessing the players’ memory.

“We were surprised that 35 percent of them appeared to have significant cognitive problems,” said lead researcher Dr. Christopher Randolph of Loyola University Medical Center in Chicago.

Researchers sent 41 of them to the Center for the Study of Retired Athletes at the University of North Carolina in Chapel Hill. Tests showed they had mild cognitive impairment that resembled a comparison group of much older patients from the general population.

The results are preliminary, and suggest the players have higher rates of impairment than would be expected for their age, but they also have more dementia risk factors, such as obesity, high blood pressure and diabetes, Randolph said.

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Online:

National Institute on Aging: http://www.nia.nih.gov/Alzheimers

Alzheimer's Association: http://www.alz.org

Center for the Study of Traumatic Brain Encephalopathy: http://www.bu.edu/cste

CDC: http://www.cdc.gov/concussion/HeadsUp/youth.html

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