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Natasha Richardson Dies After Brain Injury

Brain Experts Weigh In on Natasha Richardson's Head Injuries From a Skiing Accident

What are the symptoms of a brain injury? continued...

After a fall -- even a little tumble -- make a point to be around other people.

"You don't want to isolate yourself," Grafman says. "You want to be around other people who can see how you're doing."

Grafman isn't trying to be alarming. "I don't think there's any reason to be excessively nervous," he says. "Don't be alone after something like that happens, but you don't necessarily have to run to the ER unless you experience changes."

Taylor also encourages people not to let someone who's just had a head injury go to sleep.

"That's very important, because if they do go to sleep, they can slip into unconsciousness, and nobody's watching closely for various types of neurological symptoms," Taylor says.

"If there are neurological symptoms or discomfort or headache, don't be afraid to call 911," Taylor says.

If there is bleeding in the brain, what can doctors do about it? Is surgery an option?

"It depends," Packard says. "If there's just a small amount, they're usually admitted [to the hospital] and just watched."

"If there's a really large blood clot that's pressing on the brain and it looks like it might be expanding, that's a neurosurgical emergency," Packard says.

Packard points out that the bleeding doesn't necessarily happen in the area where someone hits their head.

"A lot of times, people fall and hit the back of their head, but because the brain moves inside the skull ... back and forth, you can actually have bleeding in the front part of the brain," Packard says.



Richardson reportedly wasn't wearing a helmet at the time of her skiing accident. Would a helmet have made a difference?


Grafman recommends wearing a helmet during any activity that could lead to a head injury. "A helmet is usually not going to make a head injury worse," Grafman says. "It can help prevent more serious trauma, particularly when it's due to some sort of blunt injury."

Taylor agrees. "I think that the precautions that we do take are really worth the effort," she says.

Packard says he doesn't believe helmets should be mandatory for skiers, "but it certainly would make sense to protect your head." He points out that skiing isn't as risky as football, riding motorcycles, or boxing, in terms of head injury risk.

Packard and Grafman say that Richardson could still have had a brain injury even if she had been wearing a helmet.

"It could have happened, yes, because of the rotational forces in the brain," Grafman says.

"Helmets can make a difference with any kind of head injury, but ... people can get injured even with the helmet," Packard says.


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