Head Injury Prevention: The Natasha Richardson Effect

Natasha Richardson

March 30, 2009 issue of People

Natasha Richardson's untimely death over a week ago was shocking -- a fatal head injury from a beginner's bunny slope? It's difficult to grasp the idea of a person getting up after a bad fall, dusting herself off, and treating a headache that's actually severe head trauma. The one positive result from this tragedy is that it shocked some sense into us.





Before Natasha's skiing accident, most people probably wouldn't have considered a bunny slope dangerous or even helmet-worthy. We probably would shake off a head injury as a minor concussion not worth going to the emergency room for. But the day after her death, emergency rooms in North Carolina, for example, detected a significant increase in the number of people seeking treatment for head injuries. There were 96 such visits on March 18, the day she died. That jumped to 144 visits the next day. Over in Ohio, the parents of a 7-year-old girl who complained of having a headache two days after getting hit in the head while playing baseball saved their daughter's life by taking her to the hospital. Having learned of Richardson's death, the girl's parents immediately called their pediatrician and went to the hospital. Doctors said the girl would have died in her sleep had the parents not taken action.

reporter, Diana Fine Maron interviewed Dr. Stephan Mayer, head of the Neurocritical Care Unit at Columbia University Medical Center about the warning signs of a life-threatening head injury. The main things he says to watch out for are passing out, a headache, and an overall droopy feeling. He says "time equals brain" meaning that every minute counts after a head injury, so seek medical help right away. And though serious head trauma is uncommon, Dr. Mayer says prevention is key -- wear a helmet.

Over in the Just For Fun Answers section, PaceMyself asked if seat belts are mandatory, shouldn't motorcycle helmets be legally required as well? Obviously these rules vary by state, but she raises an important point.

Should wearing bicycle helmets, motorcycle helmets, and seat belts be required by law or should it be optional for adults?

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