Magazine article USA TODAY

Previous Head Injury Doomed Red Baron

Magazine article USA TODAY

Previous Head Injury Doomed Red Baron

Article excerpt

Since he was shot down in 1918, much speculation has been made of who actually killed the German World War I flying ace dubbed the Red Baron. A team of researchers, including a University of Missouri-Columbia neuropsychologist, found that Baron Manfred von Richthofen never would have put himself in the position to be killed that day had he not suffered a severe head injury nine months earlier.

By comparing accounts of von Richthofen's injury and medical records, health psychology clinical associate professor Daniel Orme and retired neuropsychologist Thomas L. Hyatt of Cincinnati have concluded that the Baron displayed classic signs of traumatic brain injury, including personality and cognitive changes, leading to errors in judgment that made him a sitting duck in what amounted to a shooting gallery behind British lines.

After suffering the head wound on July 6, 1917, Orme says von Richthofen was disinhibited, a common consequence of such a trauma, and did things he never would have done before. Among those, he laid his head on a dining table in a restaurant, revealing the open wound in his scalp. …

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