After the death of Bob Saget, a question and answer session on head injuries

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

Head injuries include 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 each year have a TBI. Many others have less serious head injuries.

Saget, 65, died on January 9 in Orlando, FL. Law enforcement authorities said there was no foul play and no signs of drugs. This week, her family said an investigation concluded she died of a head injury.

“Now that we have the final conclusions of the investigation from authorities, we felt it was appropriate for fans to hear those conclusions directly from us,” the family said, according to published reports. “They have come to the conclusion that she accidentally hit the back of her 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 turn deadly and what to watch out for, WebMD sought the advice of Joshua Marcus, MD, a neurosurgeon who specializes in race Y cerebral haemorrhage 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’ place, you can injure yourself or tear a blood vessel in your brain,” says Marcus. “That’s a pretty rare occurrence,” he says, but it does happen. “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 as a result of that pressure and its effects on the brain.”

What should adults do immediately after a head injury?

“There are some concerning symptoms after you hit your head that you need to be aware of,” says Marcus.

Headache, nausea, vomiting, and confusion are worrying symptoms. If you don’t remember the event, you risk a more serious injury.

Changes in the pupils, with unequal or greatly enlarged pupils, may indicate brain damage. However, that can be a difficult symptom for non-medical professionals to assess, says Hoffman.

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

As for the advice not to go to sleep? “We believe that the first hours, 2 or 3, are quite critical [to decide if it’s serious or not]Marco says.

During that time, more symptoms may develop, prompting the person to seek medical attention. It is recommended to avoid sleep for a few hours.

What should be done if a child suffers a head injury?

First, the good news.

“In general, children tend to be very resilient,” says Hoffman. “For the most part, they bounce. I mean that in a good way.”

Consider the circumstances of the fall. Falling off a roof is very different from falling off a bed onto a rug, he says.

As with adults, it is important to monitor symptoms. The vomiting and altered mental status are “at least worth a phone call to the doctor, if not a trip to the ER,” says Hoffman.

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

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

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

“We see head trauma more often in older patients due to falls of the more benign type,” says Marcus.

Serious head injuries in younger people often occur after a serious car accident, for example.

If someone is taking blood thinners or antiplatelet drugs, a brain bleed is more likely, Marcus says.

What about recovery?

If the wound is a concussionsome symptoms, such as concentration and vision problems, can persist for a few weeks, Marcus says.

Kids with a concussion shouldn’t return to sports right away, Hoffman says.

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

As terrifying as head injuries are, he says, most are minor.

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