Links on traumatic brain injuries and mortality/morbidity from falling; do we greatly underestimate how many problems are caused by head injuries and how many QALYs are lost to falling?
“Disability Caused by Minor Head Injury”, Rimel et al 1981
“Disability in young people and adults one year after head injury: prospective cohort study”, Thornhill et al 2000
“Traumatic brain injury among men in an urban homeless shelter: observational study of rates and mechanisms of injury”, Topolovec-Vranic et al 2014
“Risk of suicide after a concussion”, Fralick et al 2016
“Long-Term Outcomes Associated with Traumatic Brain Injury in Childhood and Adolescence: A Nationwide Swedish Cohort Study of a Wide Range of Medical and Social Outcomes”, Sariaslan et al 2016a (media)
“Triggers for Violent Criminality in Patients With Psychotic Disorders”, Sariaslan et al 2016b
“Changes in Jail Admissions Before and After Traumatic Brain Injury”, Schwartz et al 2021
the CDC TBI Blue Book: “Traumatic Brain Injury In The United States: Emergency Department Visits, Hospitalizations and Deaths 2002–2006” (note the pervasiveness of falling as a cause of morbidity/mortality in all age groups)
“Head injury and 25-year risk of dementia”, Schneider et al 2021
- Sports-related traumatic brain injury: Concussions in American football
- King Henry VIII: “The jousting accident that turned Henry VIII into a tyrant?”
- Phineas Gage
- Ernest Hemingway
- Muhammad Ali
- The Genius Factory (Plotz 2006) includes a case of TBI destroying Robert Klark Graham’s son’s life: “…Another suffered a traumatic head injury as a boy, never quite recovered, and died in middle age after a difficult life.”
- mathematician Stanislaw Ulam was, his close friend Gian-Carlo Rota notes in “The Lost Cafe” (from Indiscrete Thoughts, 1997)1, apparently severely affected by a case of encephalitis in 1946 despite making a “full” recovery—formerly a dandy, he became a sloppy reckless dresser, and while still highly creative, dependent on collaborators to fill out details and unable to focus for more than a few minutes despite having laser-like focus during the 1930s—even struggling to solve quadratic equations! The sadness of those who knew him, one suspects, must have been similar to that of Eugene Wigner upon finally meeting David Hilbert, who had developed pernicious anemia.2
- Ron Porambo: talented youth boxer who became a reckless and ultimately criminal journalist
- Steve Wozniak
- “The Catastrophe: Spalding Gray’s brain injury”, Oliver Sacks 2015
- Frankie Muniz can’t remember acting on Malcolm in the Middle due to TBIs/head injuries: 1, 2
- Peter Meldrum
- Kelly Catlin (“…She just felt like she couldn’t say no to everything that was asked of her and this was her only escape. She had suffered a concussion a few months ago and had not been the same mentally ever since.”)
- “How (and Why) Athletes Go Broke: Recession or no recession, many NFL, NBA and Major League Baseball players have a penchant for losing most or all of their money. It doesn’t matter how much they make. And the ways they blow it are strikingly similar”
- “A Natural Mother: The Story Of An Intellectually Disabled Woman Who Had Long Wanted A Child But Decided To Adopt A Doll Instead”
- “The Final Five Percent”
- “My Year of Concussions: The thud was thicker than I’d expected. It felt as if my head had been slammed in a car door”
- “‘The Phantom of Ninth Street’: A Bon Vivant’s Lonely Decline—He lived every New Yorker’s dream life. And then it all slipped away”
- “This Sledding Team Trained Hard for Gold in 2010. Some Members Regret It.”; “Getting Over Gold: Athletes and Mental Health”; “Two Wyoming Bobsledders. Two Horrific Brain Injuries. One Survivor. Travis Bell and Joe Sisson were close friends and rising stars in bobsled before crashes derailed their careers. Two decades later, one of them wonders why he thrived and his friend is gone.”
- “Robert S. Trump, the President’s Younger Brother, Dies at 71”
- Thousand Oaks shooting
- Allan McDonald
- April 2021 United States Capitol attack
- Lady Randolph Churchill
- “‘Don’t Write It Off’: Advice From Brain Injury Experts After Bob Saget’s Death”
- Stuart Sutcliffe
- Segal & Hur 2022
One morning in 1946 in Los Angeles, Stanislaw Ulam, a newly appointed professor at the University of Southern California, awoke to find himself unable to speak. A few hours later he underwent dangerous surgery after the diagnosis of encephalitis. His skull was sawed open and his brain tissue was sprayed with antibiotics. After a short convalescence he managed to recover apparently unscathed.
In time, however, some changes in his personality became obvious to those who knew him. Paul Stein, one of his collaborators at the Los Alamos Laboratory (where Stan Ulam worked most of his life), remarked that while Stan had been a meticulous dresser before his operation, a dandy of sorts, afterwards he became visibly sloppy in the details of his attire even though he would still carefully and expensively select every item of clothing he wore.
Soon after I met him in 1963, several years after the event, I could not help noticing that his trains of thought were not those of a normal person, even a mathematician. In his conversation he was livelier and wittier than anyone I had ever met; and his ideas, which he spouted out at odd intervals, were fascinating beyond anything I have witnessed before or since. However, he seemed to studiously avoid going into any details. He would dwell on any subject no longer than a few minutes, then impatiently move on to something entirely unrelated.
Out of curiosity, I asked John Oxtoby, Stan’s collaborator in the thirties (and, like Stan, a former Junior Fellow at Harvard) about their working habits before his operation. Surprisingly, Oxtoby described how at Harvard they would sit for hours on end, day after day, in front of the blackboard. From the time I met him, Stan never did anything of the sort. He would perform a calculation (even the simplest) only when he had absolutely no other way out. I remember watching him at the blackboard, trying to solve a quadratic equation. He furrowed his brow in rapt absorption while scribbling formulas in his tiny handwriting. When he finally got the answer, he turned around and said with relief: “I feel I have done my work for the day.”
The Germans have aptly called Sitzfleisch the ability to spend endless hours at a desk doing gruesome work. Sitzfleisch is considered by mathematicians to be a better gauge of success than any of the attractive definitions of talent with which psychologists regale us from time to time. Stan Ulam, however, was able to get by without any Sitzfleisch whatsoever. After his bout with encephalitis, he came to lean on his unimpaired imagination for his ideas, and on the Sitzfleisch of others for technical support. The beauty of his insights and the promise of his proposals kept him amply supplied with young collaborators, willing to lend (and risking the waste of) their time.
The recollections of Eugene P. Wigner as told to Andrew Szanton, Wigner 1992, pg109–110:
Does it seem odd for a mathematician like Hilbert to take a young physicist for an assistant? Well, Hilbert needed no help in mathematics. But his work embraced physics, too, and I hoped to help Hilbert somewhat with physics.
So I was quite excited to reach Göttingen in 1927. I was quickly and deeply disappointed. I found Hilbert painfully withdrawn. He had contracted pernicious anemia in 1925 and was no longer an active thinker. The worst symptoms of pernicious anemia are not immediately obvious, and Hilbert’s case had not yet been diagnosed. But we knew already that something was quite wrong. Hilbert was only living halfway. His enormous fatigue was plain. And the correct diagnosis was not encouraging when it came. Pernicious anemia was then not considered curable.
So Hilbert suddenly seemed quite old. He was only about 65, which seems rather young to me now. But life no longer much interested him. I knew very well that old age comes eventually to everyone who survives his stay on this earth. For some people, it is a time of ripe reflection, and I had often envied old men their position. But Hilbert had aged with awful speed, and the prematurity of his decline took the glow from it. His breadth of interest was nearly gone and with it the engaging manner that had earned him so many disciples.
Hilbert eventually got medical treatment for his anemia and managed to live until 1943. But he was hardly a scientist after 1925, and certainly not a Hilbert. I once explained some new theorem to him. As soon as he saw that its use was limited, he said, “Ah, then one doesn’t really have to learn this one.” It was painfully dear that he did not want to learn it.
…I had come to Göttingen to be Hilbert’s assistant, but he wanted no assistance. We can all get old by ourselves.