Celebrities with traumatic brain injury

5 famous people who suffered brain injury

Thousands of people each year suffer a brain injury. By the law of averages, a small proportion of these people are likely to be in the public eye. Money and fame offer no protection against the often devastating effects of a brain injury. Of the five examples below, all needed the support of clinicians, therapists and, most importantly, their families and friends.

1. Richard Hammond

In 2006, Richard Hammond crashed while driving a high speed jet-powered car when filming Top Gear. Richard suffered a serious brain injury. Following the accident, he suffered from severe depression and had problems processing information and controlling his emotions. Richard admitted that he became obsessive and compulsive, plagued with paranoia; however, at the time he was unaware of these traits. This made live filming extremely difficult. He frequently lost his temper, became defensive and felt threatened by events going on around him. He also suffered another classic symptom of brain injury: his short-term memory was affected.

Richard underwent a comprehensive rehabilitation. When considering his achievements since his crash, it is easy to forget the extent of the problems that he suffered in the early stages. Richard now openly quips that the only problems he is left with is his new liking for celery! It may be the case that Richard has developed strategies to overcome the effects of his brain injury and having seen his television performances, it is clear these are very effective.

2. James Cracknell

Gold medal winning Olympian James Cracknell suffered a serious brain injury while filming in Arizona for a TV show in 2010. Like Richard Hammond, James underwent intensive acute neurorehabilitation.

In the book “Touching Distance”, James and his wife Beverley Turner explain the problems he’s had following his brain injury. James developed epilepsy, memory problems and completely lost his sense of taste. Also his personality has changed; he loses his temper quickly and becomes aggressive. Beverley is candid in her writing about the effect of James’s brain injury and personality change on their marriage and the strain it has put on the whole family.

As a sportsman James possesses huge drive and a fierce competitive nature. Looking at his achievements since his brain injury, these personality traits certainly continue. He has thrown himself into supporting Headway, the Brain Injury Association, which has done much to raise awareness about brain injury and its effects.

3. Rik Mayall

The late actor, director and writer Rik Mayall suffered a brain injury in 1998 when the quad bike he was riding crashed. Rik suffered a fractured skull and was placed into an induced coma. As a consequence, Rik suffered from epilepsy, for which he took medication daily. After rehabilitation, it is reported that Rik still suffered with memory problems. However, none of these issues have stopped Rik’s creativity shining through; he was doubtless determined to carry on after his injury and must have developed his own strategies that helped him in day-to-day life.

4. Marc Almond

Singer, songwriter and musician Marc Almond suffered a brain injury as a result of a motorcycle crash in 2004. Like Richard, James and Rik, Marc is a frequent live performer in front of large audiences. Following his head injury, Marc redeveloped the stammer he had had in his youth. He also suffered from a loss of confidence, mood swings and Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. A rehabilitation programme helped him to get back to performing live, and he has been quoted saying that he was determined to get back to the type of life he used to have, although there would have to be some concessions.

5. Roald Dahl

The late Roald Dahl, novelist, poet and screenwriter, served as a fighter pilot during World War II. In 1940, he crashed his plane and suffered a brain injury. Many of Roald Dahl’s works remain bestsellers to this day; however, it was only after his brain injury and a personality change that his famous darker side came to the fore. His confidence increased and his sense of embarrassment diminished. He developed a desire to shock people. While many of Roald Dahl’s books appeal to children, there is an underlying dark humour which did not manifest prior to his brain injury.

What do they all have in common?

One common trait that seems to shine through in all of these people’s personalities is their ability to perform at the highest level before their brain injury and their sheer determination to carry on after it. Our clients may not be celebrities, but our Personal Injury team witness people struggling and not giving up after a brain injury every day. We work with clients who have suffered varying effects of brain injury and help them get the support and advice they need to achieve the best quality of life possible – providing security for the future.

If you or someone close to you has suffered a brain injury and you would like to discuss your options, please contact our experienced and knowledgeable Personal Injury team

0800 923 2068 Email [email protected]

Understanding Tracy Morgan’s Traumatic Brain Injury

It is often the least visible but sometimes deadliest of injuries: traumatic brain injury (TBI). With the recent statement released by Tracy Morgan’s lawyer that the famous comedian-actor suffered a “severe brain injury” in an August highway crash with a Walmart truck driver, public awareness has been raised on a complex condition, one that can span a wide range of outcomes.

Motor vehicle accidents like Morgan’s are one of the most common causes of TBIs, and can be severe due to the high velocity impacts involved. TBIs can range anywhere from a mild concussion to catastrophic, fatal damage. It is in the large and gray middle zone where prognoses can highly vary and are difficult to predict, given the complexity of the brain and the still mysterious mechanisms of neuronal repair.

Even milder TBIs (aka concussions) can lead to major consequences when repeatedly administered, leading to recent concerns in football, boxing, and other sports. This has also been a concern with military service personnel who are exposed to repeated bomb blasts in war zones, particularly in Iraq and Afghanistan where improvised explosive devices (IEDs) have been the enemy’s weapon of choice. Each time a brain is hit, despite some protection by a thick skull and cushioning fluid layer, and even with additional external protection like helmets, the softer tissue inside runs into its walls at or near the speed of impact.

That internal collision leads to damage, both at the macro level, where structures break and vessels might bleed, and on the micro level, where the neurons that make up brain tissue become like frayed electrical wires, no longer able to signal along their networks. In response to the damage, the tissues also go into inflammation mode, attempting to start the healing process but also causing dangerous swelling and other mechanisms that can instead worsen the damage. That cycle of microvascular damage is what becomes cumulative over time with repeated mild concussions, leading to scarring and cellular death.

With severe TBIs that require immediate surgical intervention to reduce the impact of brain swelling and bleeding, the prognosis can be very guarded. These TBIs might also involve direct intrusive trauma from internal brain hemorrhaging/bleeding or gunshots or shrapnel or other foreign bodies. Upon emergency assessment, along with brain imaging like MRIs and CT scans, the Glasgow Coma Scale (from 1 to 15, with 1 being the worst) is used to assess a person’s level of consciousness, which correlates with the amount of potential brain damage. For example, lack of response to painful stimuli indicates deeper unconsciousness and more severe injury. In general, comas are a negative prognostic factor and indicate severe damage. (It is not some benign magical sleep as shown on TV, where people wake up a year later and are instantly back to normal.) Emergency surgery might occur to relieve acute pressure on the brain from bleeding, objects, swelling, and inflammation and prevent death or further damage. “Medically-induced comas” are periods where a patient is sedated and medications to reduce brain swelling are given to help with this high-risk period of recovery.

Depending on what parts of the brain are impacted, the person can develop forms of dementia and personality changes. The frontal lobes which govern attention, problem solving, and impulse control are commonly injured in TBIs (particularly sports-related injuries), since they are the largest part of the brain. Frontal lobe damage can lead increased irritability and limited self-control and disinhibition, combined with inattention, poor concentration, and memory problems. The most famous case of frontal lobe personality changes was Phineas Gage, the railroad worker who tragically had a spike shot into his brain. A May 2014 Slate article by Sam Kean details the tragic changes he suffered “from a virtuous foreman to a sociopathic drifter.” Higher rates of aggression and suicidal behavior have also been associated with frontal lobe damage, as seen in recent tragedies like NFL players Junior Seau, Ray Easterling, Jovan Belcher, and several other NFL suicides. A July 2013 JAMA Psychiatry study found an increased risk of suicide in military personnel with more lifetime TBIs.

As with people who have strokes, people with TBIs may also have difficulty with speech or with comprehension, or with areas of motor function in parts of their body or vision and hearing, depending on which brain structures governing these functions were affected. Intensive rehabilitation can help, as seen with the brave former Senator Gabrielle Giffords, who despite a devastating gunshot head wound has slowly recovered some speech and the ability to walk. ABC News journalist Bob Woodruff also made remarkable gains despite a horrific TBI where he lost a large segment of his skull and brain and was comatose for 36 days.

Recovery from TBIs can highly vary, and per Tracy Morgan’s lawyer’s statement, despite an intensive rehabilitation regimen, the star has been struggling and might have some permanent damage from his injuries. The brain is a malleable and mysterious organ, and recovers function in unusual ways, sometimes newly recruiting from remaining sections to restore abilities, as also seen with people who have had parts of their brains removed due to cancer or other medical conditions. Intensive external training and input during rehabilitation can enhance the amount of recovery possible, given the mind’s potential for plasticity in learning.

The mental health consequences of TBIs cannot be underestimated either, both as a direct effect of the injury, and as a reaction to its effects. Emotional support, particularly by family members and loved ones, is crucial during recovery, as it may help stimulate memories and provide a framework for one’s prior identity upon which to rebuild. This support helps both psychologically with a patient’s motivation and may also help neurologically as it preserves and restores memory and social reasoning.

Giffords’ devoted spouse Mark Kelly has no doubt helped with her level of recovery. Morgan hopefully has a beloved support network, and of course a large fan base to cheer him on. TBIs will sometimes magnify or exacerbate any prior mental health conditions or personality traits that a person had, which will also affect recovery. It may be more difficult for someone who already had issues with impulsivity or depression to have those conditions aggravated. Professional mental health support is crucial in these situations and needs to be customized to each person and should not be ignored, alongside the physical and neurological issues. A comprehensive rehabilitation approach takes into account all these factors.

I wish Tracy Morgan all the best, and hope he is probably getting the finest care available. Expectations need to be realistic; recovery from TBIs is never an easy road, and permanent, life-changing adjustments happen. But this recovery is a journey where willpower and love in combination with medical science does seem to make at least some difference. TBIs can be tragic and difficult to overcome, but with human perseverance in combination with devoted care, one can fight and make the most of the struggle ahead.

Celebrities Who Have Suffered Traumatic Brain Injuries

It may sometimes seem like celebrities have enough money and fame to live impossibly elegant and perfect lives, but the truth is that they are vulnerable to accidents and tragedies just like any other person. These celebrities have experienced traumatic brain injuries and can provide inspiration for the recovery process.

Tracy Morgan

On June 7, 2014, Tracy Morgan’s limousine van, which was carrying a group of famous comedians, was struck by a Walmart tractor trailer. The limo rolled onto its roof and killed one of the passengers. Tracy was hospitalized in critical condition and announced after six months that he had suffered a TBI. He remained in a wheelchair for months until regaining the ability to walk with a cane. The quick-witted comedian needed nearly two years to reappear on the comedy scene and begin to demonstrate his public persona, but he was indeed able to after fighting extremely hard to recover.

Gabby Giffords

In a truly horrifying yet inspiring turn of events, Arizona congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords was shot in the head by a gunman during a meet and greet event in 2011. The bullet fractured her skull, killed some of her brain tissue, but missed the midline region of her brain. Gabrielle spent years in physical, occupational, and speech therapy in order to relearn the basic abilities to walk, write, and talk. Her recovery was so successful that she is now a public advocate of gun control reform.

Abraham Lincoln

While our 16th President may be more of a historical figure than common celebrity, the fact that he sustained a TBI and went on to become one of our nation’s greatest leaders is an inspirational story. Lincoln suffered a major head injury when he was ten years old. A mule kicked him in the forehead and knocked him unconscious. Due to the lack of medical knowledge regarding TBIs at the time, Lincoln suffered effects like impaired vision and weak facial muscles throughout his life.

These celebrities and famous names prove that a TBI does not have to spell out permanent disaster. By pushing through recovery with a positive and determined attitude, anything is possible.

In his years as a neurologist, Sylvester has had time to contemplate what it means to be human. “Our identity isn’t fixed,” he concludes. “It’s a narrative that we depend on, which incorporates all sorts of things: our memories, which aren’t true anyway, but self-selected; our relationships with other people; our belief systems; what we do.” Every moment of every day, without even knowing it, we tap into our brain’s seams of personality, intellect and emotion. If a catastrophe befalls this rich and productive mine, the load can be transformed. “Your brain controls your emotions and all those other things that are wrapped up in your sense of self; who you are, your behaviour, thoughts and beliefs,” Sylvester says. “It’s a perfect storm.”

Understanding how trauma shapes and rewires our brains enables us to excavate at the coal face of human identity. Most of the time, it’s not a heart-warming story. “People lose stuff,” Sylvester says frankly. “And it’s pretty fundamental stuff, and they often don’t even realise it, which is one of the biggest tragedies.”

But sometimes, it’s not all bad. Survivors may become more creative or empathetic. Sylvester recalls a high-flying academic whose injury made him realise that he never really listened to other people. Another patient brought her family to the appointment. “Doctor,” her relatives told him, “she’s much nicer now than before.”

The eminent neurologist Oliver Sacks recounted one such story in his book, The Mind’s Eye. Patricia, a gregarious gallerist, lost her powers of speech, reading and writing after a brain haemorrhage. With a superb effort of will, she became an artful mime. “It’s as if the negativity has been wiped away,” her daughter Lari told Sacks. “She is much more consistent, appreciative of her life and gifts, and of other people too… She is the opposite of a victim. She actually feels that she has been blessed.”

Alpha Kabeja: ‘My brain fabricated memories to fill the gap’

‘When my friends came to visit, I told them about my Gulfstream G650. I told them it was parked in one of the hospital quads.’ Photograph: Alex Lake/The Observer

After being knocked off his bicycle on 1 January 2012, Alpha Kabeja, 35, sustained a traumatic brain injury. As a result of the injury and a subdural haemorrhage, he experienced post-traumatic amnesia, sometimes known as confabulation or false memories.

The last thing I remember was the van coming towards me. Then I woke up from my coma. Because I had been in the coma for so long, my brain had fabricated memories from my subconscious to explain the gap in my recollections.

I was convinced the accident happened on the way back from a job interview at MI6. The memory was staggeringly detailed: I’d been interviewed for the position of operations assistant by the director of operations, Michael Mitchells. It went well! The job was mine.

No one challenged me. When my friends came to visit, I told them about my plane: a Gulfstream G650 that I’d been brought to the hospital in. They said: “Where’s the plane now?” I told them that it was parked in one of the hospital quads, so we went down together to see it. When it wasn’t there, I said: “I know, the pilot’s moved it.” Internally, I was thinking, “I hope the pilot hasn’t done a runner with it. That plane cost a lot of money!”

When I was in hospital, I kept worrying about my new job, so I called MI6. The receptionist asked me when I’d had my interview, and I told her: “1 January”. She said, “The building was closed that day.” I hung up and sat on the bed for a long time, analysing what the hell had just happened. I had this sinking feeling in my stomach. When I saw the psychologist, she explained that I had post-traumatic amnesia. I accepted that the memories weren’t real straight away. It was so much easier to let it all go.

In hospital, there are times you’re trying to sleep, but the nurses are being loud. I started meditating. Questions would float through my head like: “Why did this happen to me? Why did I get hit by a van on the one day I wasn’t wearing my helmet?” The meditation helped me realise there was nothing I could do to change what had happened, so I had to live with it and move on.

The best way to describe myself now is Alpha 2.0. I have changed. If anything, I’m more positive now. Sometimes I can’t seem to stop myself smiling. It’s almost involuntary. I’m only thankful for what has come from the accident. It’s weird, but I feel more creative now than before. Sometimes I’ll be writing a poem, and just get lost in it. I’m writing a book, and I am hoping to qualify for the Paralympics. I’m completely content with my life now. The other day I was meditating, and the question came to me: “If I ever saw the person who knocked me over and left the scene, would I forgive them?” The answer came easily: “Yeah.” That’s when I knew I’d moved on.

Whether a brain injury changes one’s life for the better or the worse is down to chance. The only certainty is that things will be different. A brain injury changes you.

Sam Jevon: ‘I rarely feel angry or sad now’

‘The driver of the car never came to see me. She’s a horrible person.’ Photograph: Alex Lake/The Observer

Sam Jevon, 50, was a passenger in a car that came off the road in June 2006. She sustained a traumatic brain injury which resulted in a subdural haematoma and a left temporal contrecoup injury.

At the time of my injury, I was not in a good place. I was drinking too much. The doctor said: “If you keep drinking this much, you’ll end up with a dodgy liver.” I kept drinking anyway. My friends would have described me as mad and very loud. I would fight any man, I didn’t care how big they were. I wasn’t frightened of anyone.

The accident has done me a favour. I have a better life now. I am less stressed. The only thing I miss is being in my darts team. I used to be really good at darts.

When I was in hospital, I didn’t talk to anyone for a long time. I’d sit in the ward and people would bring me things to play music on, but I wasn’t interested. The driver of the car never came to visit me. She’s a horrible person.

I don’t see things how other people do. It’s difficult for me to perceive other people’s feelings. I often have to repeat myself, because people don’t understand what I’m saying. Sometimes it takes a long time to find the word I want. I don’t mind. It’s just how I am.

What’s got me through all this is being a very positive person. Having a sense of humour helps, too. I wasn’t a positive person before the accident, which is odd. I think the injury blunted my emotions, particularly anger and sadness. I very rarely feel particularly angry or sad now.

Before my injury, I wasn’t artistic at all. I could only draw matchstick people. Now, I can draw pictures with lots of detail. You have to be very patient to do art like that. I think the part of my brain that was affected by the injury allows me to concentrate a lot more. Sometimes I can’t believe how well I can draw. I’d like to do a big exhibition.

I don’t really think much about how my life used to be. There’s no good in looking back. Best to look forward. It’s not about how you used to be. It’s about how you are now.

Firoza Chowdhury: ‘I’m more sensitive to things now’

Firoza Chowdhury, 39, collapsed with a thunderclap headache at home on 2 July 2007, after sustaining a left parietal haemorrhage from a pre-existing congenital condition.

I was brushing my teeth with my head in the basin. When I straightened up there was this crazy pain all over my head. I thought, what the hell is this? It felt like my brain had been stabbed with a knife.

I collapsed on the floor. I couldn’t feel my body. Voices were all muffled, as if I was underwater. Then I was in the ambulance, vomiting. When they looked at my eyes, the pupils were different sizes. That’s how they knew something was seriously wrong.

My stroke was caused by a condition called an arteriovenous malformation. The blood vessels in my brain weren’t formed properly. It’s something someone can live with, and nothing ever happens to them. Whether it happens or not, you just cannot say.

At the time of my injury, I worked in publishing. My job was stressful and deadline-driven. A job like that relies on what doctors call executive functions: the skills you need to concentrate, work and analyse. There’s no way I’d be able to do it now. I suffer a lot from fatigue. I can’t concentrate for long periods of time, or process information. Not being as independent as I would like is also hugely frustrating. If I have a friend over on a Saturday evening and stay up late enjoying myself, I will still be recovering from it on Monday. I call it fatigue flu: you feel really exhausted and low. It’s upsetting, because you’ll have a nice time, but then the aftermath is so crap.

I’d love more than anything to be able to concentrate for a long period of time, or go out and about, and not have to worry about how I’ll feel tomorrow. To feel healthy again would be so wonderful.

Before, I used to be quite a shy person. Now, I’m less filtered. I’m more sensitive to things now; I have more anger as well. I’m more likely to perceive an offhand comment in a negative way. I’m not sure why.

I have a lot of anxiety around public transport. Before my injury, I wouldn’t think twice about being in a crowded tube. But now it’s intimidating, especially when there are people bashing into you.

I’m not good at telling people I’ve had a brain injury. I want to be treated the same as anyone else. I worry about how people are going to perceive me. I don’t want them to think there’s something wrong with me.

It hasn’t all been negative. There has been positives as well. I feel negativity when the fatigue gets to me. But when I don’t feel that way, I remember that, yes, a lot of things have changed and my life is different, but doors have opened at the same time. I am more creative now, and I’m thinking of studying dressmaking. Physically, I am improving. I was able to run after my nephew the other day in our garden – I’d never have been able to do that before.

Since the brain injury, I have learned about life: how hard it is, and how things can change. One minute you’re going about your business, and then everything is different. But I’ve learned how to survive.

Lina Lacides: ‘The only thing I can’t do is read’

‘My daughters came looking for me and found me on the bathroom floor’. Photograph: Alex Lake/The Observer

Lina Lacides, 53, from Guadeloupe, suffered a brain injury as a result of a cerebral bleed on 29 December 2003.

I was in Burger King with my daughters. I went to the toilet and never came back. My daughters came looking for me and found me on the bathroom floor. I was completely, covered in blood. My brain had simply exploded and there was blood everywhere.

After spending a year in hospital, you get really fed up. It’s like prison. I kept asking the doctors when I could go home, and they kept saying: “Not yet.” So finally I ran away. Everyone panicked! In the end they sent a helicopter to look for me. It worked, though. The week after my escape, they let me go home. I think they realised I’d had enough.

Before my accident, I was always busy. I worked all the time. It was too much for my brain. Now, I take it easy. When I realised I couldn’t read any more, I cried. I thought: “I’m nothing in this life if I can’t read.” Everything you need to do, you need to be able to read. But then I thought, some people go blind or can’t speak after a brain injury. The only thing I can’t do now is read. So I try not to be negative.

I still have the mother instinct with my daughters. I know what’s good for them, and what’s not. They can’t say to me, “Mum, I’m going to a party.” I’ll tell them, “No you’re not. Go upstairs and read a book.”

I’m embarrassed to tell people I can’t read. The other day I went to a car showroom, and I asked the assistant to read the prices to me. I told them that I had left my glasses at home. But it’s OK. Imagine being depressed about something like that. There’s no point. Being negative can push you to suicide. I don’t want to kill myself!

After my injury, I thought I wouldn’t be able to cook again, but I knew straight away how to make rice and peas and curry chicken, because it’s my food. If I’m trying something new, I force my brain to remember. I still know how things should taste. I know not to put sugar in a curry, but garlic, or spice.

I apply the same logic to my life as I do with my cooking. You won’t be able to do something at first, but you can learn it by trying. It’s the same with my food. Maybe I put too much salt in it last time, so I’ll use less salt today.

I live my life day by day. When you plan things too much, they don’t work out. And I’m positive. There are always people worse off than you.


Richard Hammond

In 2006, TV presenter Richard Hammond survived a severe car accident which nearly ended his life.

The self-confessed ‘petrol-head’ is best known for being a presenter on the BBC show Top Gear, which he co-hosts with Jeremy Clarkson and James May. Hammond’s job frequently involves the presenter to undertake extreme motoring challenges, involving the use of high-speed cars .

Producers told Hammond that his next thrilling challenge was to test the speed capabilities of a Vampire dragster powered by a single Bristol-Siddeley Orpheus afterburning turbojet engine, capable of producing 10,000 bhp. Of course, Hammond was excited about the challenge and was eager to get to work.

The challenge was practiced on a RAF base in Elvington, near York. Hammond performed six runs, but the BBC crew negotiated an extension which allowed Hammond to perform it one last time.

The final run appeared satisfactory, travelling at a speed of 288mph. At approximately 14.25 seconds into the run, the Vampire’s front tyre suffered a blow out causing the vehicle to spin out of control, travelling sideways down the track. After 220 metres, the car left the track and began to travel on the grass outfields, still travelling at 230 mph. Next, the car flipped and finally came to a halt as the car’s roll bars dug into the ground.

Immediately paramedics were on the scene and Hammond was rushed to Leeds General Infirmary by an air ambulance.

Hammond suffered a number of serious head injuries following the accident including facial bruising and severe swelling to the brain. The TV presenter was transferred to the Neurological Intensive Care Unit at Leeds General Infirmary where he remained in critical condition for some time.

Approximately two weeks after the accident, the swelling around his brain significantly reduced. Hammond was allowed to return home, however his head injury symptoms still continued as he suffered from slight memory loss, depression and emotional stress. His recovery was described as ‘remarkable’ by medics.

Hammond returned to the BBC show as a co-host just four months after the accident. He continues to undertake motoring challenges for the show.

Nastasha Richardson

Natasha Richardson, actress and wife of actor Liam Neeson, suffered a fatal brain injury in March 2009 following a skiing accident just two days before her death.

Most well-known for her role in the film Parent Trap, alongside Lindsey Lohan, the much-respected actress was holidaying at the Canadian Mont Tremblant ski resort when she tumbled down a hill during a beginners skiing lesson. Initially, Ms Richardson appeared to be unhurt. She had not been wearing a helmet.

Immediately after the ‘tumble’, ski patrollers attended Ms Richardson and offered to call a doctor, however the actress insisted that she felt fine.

Soon after, Ms Richardson began to suffer from painful headaches and contacted medics at the resort. She was quickly transferred to a nearby hospital and fell into a critical condition. Her condition soon deteriorated and she was taken to Sacre-Coeur Hospital in Montreal where she was placed on a life- support machine.

Liam Neeson, her husband, flew to her side, but she failed to regain consciousness and was flown back to New York where her friends and family, including her two children, could say goodbye for the final time.

The cause of her death was stated as an epidural haematoma which had been caused to a blunt impact to the head.

It is not known why Ms Richardson wasn’t wearing a helmet during her beginners skiing lesson. A helmet may have saved her life.

Gary Busey

The American film actor survived a terrible motorbike accident in 1988 which left him in a coma for 33 days.

Some of the actor’s most popular roles in films include Point Blank, Under Siege, Lethal Weapon and Predator 2.

Busey was riding his motorbike at 40 mph when the crash occurred. The actor was flipped over his motorbike handlebars, causing him to hit his head on a curb as he fell to the floor. He was not wearing a helmet.

Busey suffered from serious head injuries due to the accident. He fractured his skull and suffered from swelling and bleeding on the brain. Medics thought Busey would be left with permanent brain damage.

After 33 days in a coma, Busey made a miraculous recovery. After a long period of rehabilitation and recuperation, the actor returned to his film career and has been working as an advocate for traumatic injury prevention ever since the accident.

Rik Mayall

Most famous for his hilarious characters in The Young Ones, Bottom and The Comic Strip, British comedian Rik Maynall suffered from serious head injuries after a quad bike accident.

On Easter weekend 1998, Maynall took his quad bike out for a ride when it started to rain. Soon after, Maynall’s wife found the actor lying motionless next to the vehicle after suffering from a serious accident.

Maynall was air-lifted to Derriford Hospital in Plymouth where it was revealed that he had suffered from two haematomas and a fractured skull. He experienced life-threatening injuries and was sedated for 96 hours. His family was warned that he may never wake up.

The comedian was eventually brought round five days later. Doctors told Maynall that two fifths of his brain was clogged with blood. Doctors waited for a few weeks to allow the blood to drain from around his brain on its own accord. Six weeks after the accident, a large amount of blood still remained, therefore surgeons needed to perform a procedure to remove it. Maynall and his family were warned that the operation was very dangerous, giving Maynall a 50% chance of surviving the operation.

The procedure was successful and Maynall returned home. The actor has complained of occasional seizures since the accident. He now needs to take medication to prevent future occurrences.

How to make a head injury claim

Our solicitors at 1stClaims have many years experience of head injury claims. Our head injury claims solicitors will take care of your claim so that you can concentrate on your rehabilitation.

Get in touch today by completing our free claim enquiry or speak to one of our friendly solicitors on 0800 2888 693 to help you decide how you want to proceed with your claim.

Nicholas Jervis

Tags: Personal Injury

This entry was posted on Wednesday, April 17th, 2013 at 2:11 pm and is filed under Celebrity Accidents And Claims UK. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can leave a response, or trackback from your own site.

With the NFL “Concussion” scandal beginning to fade from public consciousness, it’s easy to forget that traumatic brain injuries are still a serious problem. A traumatic or acquired brain injury can change your life in an instant – whether you’re playing pro football, fall off a ladder or get injured on the job. People with brain injuries know first-hand – life is different post-injury.
In the interest of raising awareness, we’re using this blog to highlight celebrities who have survived traumatic brain injuries and what they’ve taken from the experience. If you have survived a TBI, we encourage you to share your story – and what you’ve taken from the experience – at the end of this post.
Gary Busey suffered a TBI in 1998. Best known for his roles in Lethal Weapon, Point Breakand Predator 2, he crashed his motorcycle while not wearing a helmet. Busey fractured his skull and spent two months in the hospital. In an interview one year after the accident on The Tonight Show with David Lettermen he discusses how the accident changed his personal life, shifted his perspective on the world and informed his philanthropic endeavors. He has worked to raise $400,000 for muscular dystrophy and advocated for a skill tests that could result in required helmet use on motorcycles. Busey readily admits that his TBI caused him to act impulsively and has significantly lowered his “mental filters.” Letterman even jokes “you’re funnier now.”
Busey has remained active professionally, maintained a populated filmography and capitalized on his well-known, unique demeanor. Despite his TBI, he was able to continue his acting career, raise a son and even become a major proponent for Brain Injury Awareness. He won $40,000 on the Celebrity Apprentice in 2011 and donated all of it to the Center of Head Injury Services in Missouri.
Steve Young was the San Francisco 49er’s quarterback from 1987 to 1999. He suffered a minimum of 6 concussions over the course of his career. He retired early after a tackle by Aeneas Williams left him unconscious on the field for several minutes. Since then he’s been an advocate for concussion awareness, prevention and protection. Young even created a collaborative infotainment page on YouTube discussing the prevalence of concussive risk for every player in every sport, the symptoms of a concussion, the risks of returning to the field while concussed, the effect age has on concussion recovery and severity, and what to do if you’ve been concussed. The mantra of the video is “When in doubt, sit it out.”
On June 7th, 2014, A Wal-Mart semi-truck crashed into six cars, putting Tracy Morgan in a coma for eight days and killing his long-time friend James McNair. His recovery was long and arduous. Months later he still required a wheelchair for taking more than “some steps.” In September 2015 he made a surprise appearance at the Emmy’s, where he shared his first-hand TBI experiences. Using comedy and emotion, he told us that he was starting to feel like himself again. Backstage he shared that he “couldn’t walk” and had to relearn “how to stand up and sit down again.” Unfortunately, despite improving by leaps and bounds, “Tracy will never fully be himself again” and his therapy has no end date.
Tracy has since returned to showbiz. He’s been welcomed back by Saturday Night Live, appeared in three films and has released a new standup special, “Tracy Morgan: Staying Alive.” He is an active philanthropist supporting causes like Drug Abuse, HIV/AIDS and disaster relief.
Gabrielle Giffords, Arizona House Representative from 2007 to 2012, suffered a Traumatic Brain Injury from an attempt on her life at a public speaking event at a Safeway near Tucson. The gunman shot her in the head at point blank range and then opened fire on the crowd. Thirteen people were injured and six people were killed including Federal Judge John Roll, and nine-year-old girl Christina-Taylor Green. Here is the NBC report from the day of the incident.
A year into recovery, Giffords resigned from her seat in the house of representatives to dedicate herself to rehabilitation. Here is her resignation letter. In the years following, she championed gun control, founded “American’s for Responsible Solutions,” which is now known as Giffords. They campaign in congress and have worked to pass legislation that takes guns out of the hands of high-risk individuals.
Mark Kelly, Gabrielle’s husband, put it best when he addressed the would-be assassin: “Mr. Loughner, you may have put a bullet through her head but you have not put a dent in her spirit and her ability to do good.”
In 2017 she became the third living woman to see have a Navy Warship named in her honor. She fights the good fight and in spite of her injury she is an American hero.
A helmet saved Kevin Pearce’s life, but the incident still left him with a Traumatic Brain Injury. He was a professional snowboarder and had his accident while practicing a maneuver called the “cab double cork” on a half pipe. He was preparing to compete against Shaun White for a spot on the US Olympic Snowboarding team. His injury was very severe and cost him his independence, his voice, career and ability to walk.
Pearce’s rehabilitation was extensive and he had the support of his family and friends, but he attributes his successful and ongoing recovery to his competitive nature. He will never compete again, but has been able to safely return to recreational snowboarding. He also co-founded a non-profit called Love Your Brain dedicated to raising awareness and improving the quality of life for people with brain injuries and those with Down Syndrome people.
Kevin is very active in the world of brain injury and works very hard to educate and inspire people. Here he is leading a TED talk about TBIs, and this is his website if you’d like to know more about him and his causes.
Kevin Pearce said it best in his TEDx Talk, “a brain injury is like a fingerprint, no two are the same.” Evidenced here through these wonderful stories is the fact that TBIs are the hardest thing a person can experience, but that also, to an extent, many of these injuries can be overcome. Their accomplishments are inspiring, and are proof that a new best self can be reached.
Do you have a personal story of surviving a brain injury? We welcome you to share those stories with us below.

This is what a brain injury feels like

I didn’t lack company, but I had a hard time staying awake to hang out – I spent most of the first week after the injury asleep. I still had the headache, and being asleep meant I didn’t feel it; it was my constant companion for a week. But also, every time I woke up, I felt a little better: my balance had improved slightly, for instance, and it was easier for me to think. For the first week after the crash, I kept the curtains drawn in my apartment and didn’t turn the lights on until I absolutely had to.

Even for people who feel normal, things aren’t back to normal in the brain, Harvard’s Mullally tells me. Studies in humans and in animal models show unusual patterns of blood flow in the brain persist for a month. Gentle cardio exercise – such as walking – can help improve it. A concussion patient shouldn’t go back to full steam ahead immediately, but neither should they wait until they are well to begin resuming their lives, he says.

Even after the headache finally vanished, bright light and loud sounds could trigger smaller, migraine-like ones, so I wore sunglasses every time I left the house. I also carried earplugs with me, just in case. Before the crash, I hadn’t noticed how loud everything was; now I was painfully aware. Coffee shops (high ceilings, cement floors and exposed tile), airports (high ceilings, hard surfaces, intercoms, inconsequential beeping), and public transit (the screeching of a train on the track) all guaranteed headaches. The sensitivity to noise lasted for about three weeks, and it was isolating. I often left the apartment with earplugs in. The world isn’t designed for brain injuries. Basically, Mullally told me, almost everything is brighter and louder than we realise. Our brains filter a lot of stuff out, but my brain couldn’t do that filtering.

After a week in bed, I got restless. I started with a half an hour of walking, and when that didn’t make me tired, I moved up to an hour. Doing too much, of course, could mean a headache. That was the worst period of my recovery. By the second week, my black eye was gone and my lips weren’t split anymore, but stairs and curbs – anything that required stepping down – were still terrifying. I didn’t feel normal, but I looked normal. And that meant people treated me like I was normal. Our society really isn’t equipped for people with brain injuries, which are real but invisible. Even though I knew my balance wasn’t good enough to stand on public transport, I was scared to ask for a seat on a crowded train. An injury no one can see doesn’t inspire sympathy.

After a month, I felt confident enough to go back to yoga, where I discovered my balance was still bad; easy one-legged poses I had considered the base of my practice were gone. I could walk and even bike just fine, but the subtleties of positioning my body in space hadn’t returned.

That was also around the time I went back to work. I still got tired quickly, and my day often ended earlier than I wanted – usually with a headache. But working helped with my memory, too. Things that had happened to me before the concussion still had a patina of unreality to them, because I couldn’t feel the memories. I quickly discovered that while the content of my memory was intact, the emotions associated with the memories were gone.

Fortunately, memories aren’t static. Every time you or I recall a memory, we repaint it in our minds. Our memories change every time we pull them forward. And so, back at work, I began to recompile memories of my pre-concussion life. After a few weeks, most of my memories again had emotions associated with them.

There were the little victories. The first day I was back at work, I told a writer her story had an unclear antecedent; I was immediately filled with glee that I not only had noticed, but had selected the right word. Something in the familiar process of editing had called them forth – and remembering them was akin to finding an unexpected $20 bill in an old pair of jeans.

There were also little losses. For example, it became apparent, once I was back at work, that my attention span wasn’t what it had been. This is actually common in concussion patients, says Sufrinko. It’s related to the problems with vision, which makes sense, since attention and vision have a lot to do with each other. Vision steers attention in ways most of us aren’t aware of, she says. “If you’re daydreaming and you’re off in your own little land, and then all of a sudden you realise you’re not paying attention, you also realise that visually you’re not focused,” she says. “People with visual problems lose their attention a lot.”

But this distractibility also faded. My balance improved. Finally, the only thing left was fear. For weeks, sound and light gave me headaches. When it stopped, I still avoided music, TV and movies. I felt actual dread about them. I worried I’d screw up something serious at work if my attention drifted. And steep downhill slopes or uneven stairs filled me with gut-level terror. It didn’t matter that I navigated stairs and slopes as well as I had before. My confidence was gone.

I had learned to avoid certain things, I realised. A month is plenty of time to be conditioned to fear my headache triggers: complex tasks, sound, bright lights, tests of my balance. Was this was the anxiety that had been mentioned in the medical literature? But my fears were conditioned; I had learned to fear The Headache. That was good news, I figured, since conditioned fear could be extinguished. The trick was to re-expose myself to the things I now feared, starting slowly and gently: Bruce Brubaker’s Glass Piano. Half a television show. A yoga class. Backpacking for days in a redwood forest on a mostly downhill route. Writing this article.

Structurally, as a writer, I want to put some kind of moral here to send my reader off happy. I actually spent weeks thinking: what is the lesson? As far as I can tell, there is no lesson. Brain injuries happen for no reason, after all. Even when I found it difficult to think straight, I didn’t feel much of a loss. In any event, I have bought a new bicycle and a new helmet. I’ve been riding my bike to yoga class for the last few months, and I have successfully arrived every time.

Main illustration by Guardian Design/Getty

This is an edited version of an article that originally appeared in The Verge, published by Vox Media.

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Concussions and Traumatic Brain Injury

There are approximately 1.7 million emergency room visits for traumatic brain injury (TBI) in the U.S. annually, and an estimated 300,000 veterans who have sustained TBIs during conflicts. On top of this, there are hundreds of thousands of unreported incidents of head trauma, including undiagnosed concussions each year. Unfortunately for many of those who sustain them, brain injuries that don’t result in a loss of consciousness often go unnoticed and are never treated.

We are very knowledgeable about the consequences of TBI and concussions – and how to identify them and heal the brain.

Research shows that undiagnosed brain injuries are a major cause of depression, anxiety, drug and alcohol abuse, homelessness, ADD/ADHD and suicide.

Ask yourself if you have ever:

  • Played football, baseball, basketball, lacrosse, soccer, rugby or hockey?
  • Fallen out of a tree, down the stairs, off a horse, a bike or a skateboard, or crashed while skiing or snowboarding?
  • Been in a motor vehicle accident, even a simple “fender-bender”?
  • Been physically assaulted?


Have you ever:

  • Been hit directly in the head?
  • Blacked out for a few seconds?
  • Seen stars?
  • Felt dazed or confused for a minute?

If you answered “yes” to any of these, or developed any behavior problems after hitting your head, you may actually have injured your brain even if you didn’t get diagnosed with a concussion.

Did you know that you don’t have to hit your head to injure your brain?

The brain is a magnificent organ; however, it is very soft — literally the consistency of soft butter. The skull is very hard in order to protect the brain and there are many sharp boney ridges inside, which hold the brain in place. When you hit your head or when your head bounces around enough (as in a whiplash injury), your brain collides with the inside of the skull, causing damage.

While some people develop symptoms immediately following a TBI, others find their symptoms emerge over a period of weeks or months. As a result of this delay, the underlying cause of the symptoms is often forgotten and not uncovered. Many times, doctors simply don’t ask about possible injury to the brain or actually look at the brain with imaging. Instead, the problems are frequently attributed to a psychiatric condition and the person is treated with medication.

Common symptoms of mild to moderate TBI and concussions:

  • Confusion
  • Difficulty with concentration and paying attention
  • Memory problems
  • Difficulty with word finding
  • Mental and/or physical fatigue
  • Sleep problems
  • Sensitivity to noise and/or light
  • Moodiness
  • Angry outbursts
  • Increased anxiety
  • Social isolation
  • Vision problems
  • Balance problems
  • Nausea

At Amen Clinics, we not only perform a detailed history, we look at your brain to help us understand what is really going on.

Brain SPECT imaging is one of the best tools available to identify areas of the brain hurt by TBI. A CT (“CAT”) scan or MRI will tell you if there is any damage to the anatomy or structure of your brain, but these scans cannot tell how your brain is functioning. In fact, many times a CT or MRI will be normal after a TBI, when there is actually functional damage to the brain that can be detected with SPECT.

Using SPECT to differentiate TBI from other disorders, such as PTSD

Some symptoms of TBI overlap with those of other conditions, including posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) where sleep problems, irritability or anger, concentration problems and social isolation are commonly found in both. Because of this, people can be misdiagnosed and given the wrong type of treatment if no one actually looks at their brain.

Two research studies published in 2015 by the research team at Amen Clinics, in collaboration with scientists from UCLA, Thomas Jefferson University, and the University of British Columbia, were able to differentiate PTSD from TBI with high accuracy using SPECT imaging. This achievement was recognized by Discover Magazine as #19 of the top 100 science stories of 2015. This research paves the way for people suffering with one or both of these conditions to get the correct treatment.

How Amen Clinics can help with traumatic brain injury (TBI) and concussions

The Amen Clinics Method uses a detailed clinical history, SPECT imaging to understand brain function, neuropsychological testing and often laboratory studies to fully understand what is going on for each of our patients. We combine all the data from your evaluation to create a targeted treatment plan specifically for your brain using the least toxic, most effective means.

Tips to Help Keep your Brain Safe:

  • Always wear your seatbelt when in a vehicle
  • Avoid high risk sports and activities where you can hit your head
  • Always wear a helmet when on a motorcycle, bicycle, skateboard, snowboard, skis, or rollerblades; however, it’s important to know that a helmet doesn’t prevent TBI if you hit your head, but it can help protect your skull from getting fractured.

Celebrity traumatic deaths: Are gangster rappers really “gangsta”?

Can J Surg 2013;56(4)E59-E62 | PDF

Chad G. Ball, MD, MSc* Elijah Dixon, MD, MSc* Neil Parry, MD† Ali Salim, MD‡ Jason Pasley, DO§ Kenji Inaba, MD§ Andrew W. Kirkpatrick, MD*

From the Departments of Surgery, the *University of Calgary, Foothills Medical Centre, Calgary, Alta., the †University of Western Ontario, Victoria Hospital, London, Ont., ‡Cedars Sinai Medical Center, Los Angeles, Calif., and the §University of Southern California, Los Angeles County Hospital, Los Angeles, Calif.


Background: Celebrity injury-related deaths are a common topic of conversation and receive wide media coverage. Despite stereotypes and broad generalizations, it is unclear if the mechanisms of demise echo those of the general population. The objective of this study was to evaluate the epidemiology underlying celebrity traumatic deaths.

Methods: We evaluated all known injury-related deaths in celebrities (musicians, athletes, actors, politicians and celebrity socialites) that occurred between Jan. 1, 2000, and Sept. 1, 2011. Exclusion criteria were drug/alcohol overdoses and suicides. We used standard statistical methodology.

Results: Among 389 celebrities who died because of their injuries, motor vehicle collisions remained the most common mechanism overall. Rappers and politicians had a higher proportion of deaths due to interpersonal violence than all other celebrities. Gunshot wounds were most common in these cohorts (83% and 63%, respectively). Rappers and athletes also died at a younger mean age than other celebrities. Sportrelated deaths were most common in boxing and mixed martial arts. Additional mechanisms included airplane crashes, animal interactions and recreational activities.

Conclusion: Despite occasionally exotic scenarios, most celebrities die of injury mechanisms similar to those of the general population. It is also apparent that rappers and politicians die by violent means at young and middle ages, respectively, more commonly than all other celebrities.


Contexte : Les blessures mortelles chez les gens célèbres sont un inépuisable sujet de conversation et font l’objet d’une vaste couverture médiatique. Au-delà des stéréotypes et des généralisations, on ignore si les mécanismes en cause dans ces blessures suivent la même tendance que dans la population générale. L’objectif de cette étude était d’évalu – er l’épidémiologie sous-jacente des décès d’origine traumatique chez les gens célèbres.

Méthodes : Nous avons analysé tous les décès de gens célèbres (musiciens, athlètes, acteurs, politiciens et célébrités mondaines) survenus par suite de blessures apparentes entre le 1er janvier 2000 et le 1er septembre 2011. Les critères d’exclusion étaient les surdoses de drogue et d’alcool et les suicides. Nous avons utilisé la méthodologie statistique standard.

Résultats : Parmi 389 personnes célèbres décédées par suite de blessures, les accidents de la route sont demeurés le mécanisme sous-jacent le plus fréquent dans l’ensemble. Les rappeurs et les politiciens ont présenté la proportion la plus élevée de mort due à la violence interpersonnelle comparativement aux autres célébrités. Les blessures par balle ont été plus fréquentes dans ces cohortes (83 % et 63 %, respectivement). Également, les rappeurs et les athlètes sont décédés à un âge moins avancé que les autres célébrités. Les décès liés à la pratique de sports ont été plus nombreux chez les boxeurs et les adeptes des arts martiaux. Parmi les autres causes relevées, mentionnons : écrasements d’avion, blessures infligées par des animaux et activités récréatives.

Conclusion : À quelques exceptions près, la majorité des célébrités qui meurent à la suite de blessures subissent le même type d’accidents que la population générale. L’étude a aussi fait ressortir que les rappeurs et les politiciens meurent davantage de mort violente à un jeune âge et à un âge moyen respectivement, comparativement aux autres célébrités.

Accepted for publication Oct. 9, 2012

Competing interests: None declared.

DOI: 10.1503/cjs.019812

Correspondence to: C.G. Ball Foothills Medical Centre 1403–29 St. NW Calgary AB T2N 2T9 [email protected]

Spinal cord injuries happen to nearly 12,500 new people in the United States each year. They can also happen to celebrities. Even though it is not as common simply because of mathematics, there are several celebrities with spinal cord injuries. A spinal cord injury can happen to anyone no matter their social status.

Here are some of the most well-known celebrities with spinal cord injuries. Most of the injuries were acquired after they became famous, and a couple on our list had their injury before their star rose.

Christopher Reeve

Injured in 1995 after a legendary movie career, most known for his role in Superman, Christopher Reeve was injured while horse racing. One of the most famous actors of the 1980s, he used his injury to inspire the world that a cure for a spinal cord injury could be found. He founded the Christopher and Dana Reeve Foundation, which is still active to this day and raises hundreds of millions of dollars each year for spinal cord injury research and the care of people with paralysis. His son Will is currently a news correspondent for Good Morning America and both his other children, Matthew and Alexandra, are still active in the foundation.

Darryl “Chill” Mitchell

An aspiring actor in the early 1990s, Darrel “Chill” Mitchell was most famous for his co-starring role on Veronica’s Closet, a hit sitcom of the mid-1990s starring Kirstie Alley. Darryl was injured while riding his motorcycle, but he did that not let that stop him from pursuing his career. Since his injury in 1998, Darryl has had many starring roles. His most recent role is a reoccurring role on NCIS: New Orleans.

Jessye Norman

A Grammy award-winning opera singer who won a National Medal of Art and was an Honorary Ambassador to the United Nations, Jessye Norman made a career with her voice for decades. She was invited to sing at many national events, including the 1996 Summer Olympics Opening Ceremony and the second inauguration of US President Bill Clinton. Jessye suffered a spinal cord injury in 2015 at the age of 70. The cause of injury was never made public. She passed away from complications from her injury in September 2019.

Chuck Close

Chuck Close is a popular American artist known for as photorealistic paintings and became famous in the NYC art world long before his injury. Many of his early works were large portraits based on photographs, usually of his family and friends. He has face blindness, which is why he was inspired to create portraits. In 1988 at the height of his career, he suffered a spinal artery collapse that left him a paraplegic. He continues to create art, which he still does to this day at 79 years old.

Larry Flynt

Love him or hate him, Larry Flynt is one of the most famous paraplegics in the world. He is the founder of Hustler Magazine and is known for his high-profile legal battle involving the First Amendment that was profiled in Hollywood movie, “People vs. Larry Flynt.” A well-known American publisher, Flynt rose to fame in the 1970s and was targeted by serial killer Joseph Franklin in 1978, who shot him, paralyzing him. Currently 76 years old, Flynt is still active in his industry.

Charles Krauthammer

A well-known political columnist and Fox News contributor, Charles Krauthammer was a conservative pundit who was paralyzed during his first year at Harvard Medical School. Paralyzed in a diving accident, he refused to stop his academic goals and returned to medical school, graduating to become a psychiatrist. He was a speechwriter for Walter Mondale in 1980 and wrote for the Washington Post from 1985-2018. He died from cancer in 2018.

Teddy Pendergrass

A popular solo artist in the 1970s and early 1980’s, Teddy Pendergrass was huge in the disco era with his hit “I Don’t Love You Anymore.” In 1982, he was in a car accident while driving his Rolls-Royce and became a quadriplegic. After his injury, he returned to his career and scored another number one hit. He also sang in several commercials and released a hip-hop alum in the 1990s. After retiring in 2006, Teddy was diagnosed with colon cancer a couple of years later. He died from respiratory failure in 2010.

Amy Van Dyken

Famous athletes can become paralyzed as well. Amy Van Dyken, a former US Olympic swimmer, won six gold medals during her Olympic career. After a lengthy swimming career, she was paralyzed while riding an ATV in 2014 after her 40th birthday. She is now active in competitive adaptive CrossFit and lives her life as a paraplegic.

This list only encompasses celebrities who’ve had severe spinal cord injuries. There are many others with minor spinal cord injuries that we’re able to recover, such as Gloria Estefan. The takeaway – anyone is at risk of a spinal cord injury.

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