After Bob Saget’s Death, A Q&A About Head Injuries

February 10, 2022 — With recent news that comedian Bob Saget’s death was due to head trauma, apparently from an accidental blow to the head, doctors say any head injury should be taken seriously.

Head injury includes any damage to the skull, scalp, or brain caused by trauma. When the brain is affected, it is called a traumatic brain injury or TBI. About 1.7 million people in the US have a TBI each year. Many others have less severe head injuries.

Saget, 65, died on January 9 in Orlando, FL. Law enforcement officers said there was no malicious intent and there were no signs of drugs. This week, his family said an investigation revealed he died of a head injury.

“Now that we have the final conclusions of the authorities’ investigation, we thought it only appropriate that fans should hear those conclusions directly from us,” the family said, according to published reports. “They have concluded that he accidentally hit the back of his head on something, didn’t think about it and went to sleep. There were no drugs or alcohol involved.”

To better understand how head injuries can become fatal and what to look for, WebMD sought advice from Joshua Marcus, MD, a neurosurgeon who specializes in stroke and brain hemorrhage at Nuvance Health System, in Danbury, CT, and Ben Hoffman, MD. , professor of pediatrics at Oregon Health and Science University in Portland.

How can a head injury be fatal?

“If you hit your head in the ‘wrong’ location, you can injure or rupture a blood vessel in the brain,” Marcus says. “That’s a pretty rare event,” he says, but it happens. “That bleeding can lead to increased pressure in the brain and that can be fatal.

“As the bleeding progresses, that increased pressure can affect your breathing. Essentially, your breathing stops due to that pressure and its effects on the brain.”

What should adults do immediately after a head injury?

“There are some worrisome symptoms after you hit your head that you should watch out for,” Marcus says.

Headaches, nausea, vomiting and confusion are worrisome symptoms. Failure to remember the event puts you at risk for a more serious injury.

Pupil changes, with unequal or very enlarged pupils, may indicate brain damage. However, that can be a difficult symptom for nonmedical professionals to evaluate, Hoffman says.

Weakness in the arms or legs, difficulty speaking, and seizures are all reasons to seek immediate medical attention, Marcus says.

As for the advice not to go to sleep? “We think the first few hours – 2 or 3 – are pretty critical [to decide if it’s serious or not]’ says Mark.

During that time, more symptoms may develop, prompting the person to seek medical attention. It is recommended not to sleep for a few hours.

What to do if a child suffers a head injury?

First the good news.

“In general, kids are very resilient,” Hoffman says. “For the most part, they bounce. I mean that in a good way.”

Keep in mind the conditions of the fall. Falling off a roof is very different from falling off a bed onto a carpet, he says.

As with adults, it is important to monitor the symptoms. Vomiting and altered mental status ”justify at least a phone call to the doctor, if not an ER trip,’ Hoffman says.

Loss of consciousness is often associated with a concussion and needs immediate attention.

If symptoms don’t seem severe, observe children for an hour or two to see if they return to normal. After that, Hoffman says, it’s fine to get some sleep. In general, he says, it’s fine to give a pain reliever like acetaminophen and put a cold pack on the area if it’s bruised.

Are some people more prone to serious head injuries after a fall or accident?

“We are seeing more head trauma in older patients from more benign falls,” Marcus says.

Severe head trauma in younger people is more common after, for example, a serious car accident.

If someone takes blood thinners or antiplatelet agents, they are more likely to have a brain hemorrhage, Marcus says.

What about recovery?

If the injury is a concussion, some symptoms, such as problems with concentration and vision, can last for a few weeks, Marcus says.

Kids with concussions shouldn’t go back to sports right away, Hoffman says.

If symptoms worsen, medical attention is needed again, Marcus says.

As scary as head injuries are, he says, most are mild.

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