Traumatic Brain Injuries Worsen Quickly, Require Medical Help
Fabregas, Luis, Tribune-Review/Pittsburgh Tribune-Review
Brain injuries can worsen quickly, but many aren't life- threatening, medical experts said Thursday after the death of actress Natasha Richardson and an accident that seriously injured a high school baseball player.
Richardson, 45, died Wednesday, about 48 hours after falling on a beginner's ski trail in Canada. Joey Fontana, 17, remained hospitalized yesterday after the junior at Neshannock High School in Lawrence County struck his head on a steel fence during a game.
People should pay attention to symptoms to determine whether a head injury has the potential to turn serious. If someone is vomiting, having a seizure or complains of a headache or feeling nauseated, people should seek prompt medical care, doctors said.
"If you have any doubt, get medical help," said Mark Lovell, director of UPMC Sport Medicine's concussion program. "Don't try to diagnose it on your own."
Richardson's death put the spotlight on traumatic brain injuries, which are caused by a blow or jolt to the head that disrupts the normal function of the brain. About 1.4 million people in the United States suffer traumatic brain injuries every year, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Most of those injured, 1.1 million, are treated in emergency rooms and released, but 235,000 require hospitalization, and 50,000 die.
"The vast majority of us are not going to be in a situation where something severe is likely to occur," said Dr. Jack Wilberger, chief of neurosurgery at Allegheny General Hospital in the North Side.
The most severe injuries occur in car wrecks and in falls involving the elderly, Wilberger said. Older people are more susceptible to serious injuries if they are taking blood-thinning medications. …