Older Americans and particularly susceptible to closed head injuries in both falls and motor vehicle accidents.   A couple of factors contribute to this vulnerability.

A subdural hematoma develops when the tiny veins that run between the dura and surface of the brain (bridging veins) tear and leak blood. This is usually the result of a head injury.

A collection of blood then forms over the surface of the brain. In a chronic subdural collection, blood leaks from the veins slowly over time, or a fast hemorrhage is left to clear up on its own.

A subdural hematoma is more common in the elderly because of normal brain shrinkage that occurs with aging. This shrinkage stretches and weakens the bridging veins. These veins are more likely to break in the elderly, even after a minor head injury.

In addition, long-term use of aspirin, anti-inflammatory drugs such as ibuprofen, or blood thinning (anticoagulant) medication such as warfarin can increase both likelihood and severity of a subdural hematoma or other head injury.

An accident involving a celebrated older American took place this week.  Dr. John Nash, the Nobel Prize-winning mathematician whose struggle mental illness inspired the Academy Award-winning film “A Beautiful Mind” died in a two-car accident.

Dr. Nash and his wife, Alicia, 82, were in a taxi on the New Jersey Turnpike in Monroe Township around 4:30 p.m. when the driver lost control while veering from the left lane to the right and hit a guardrail and another car….  The couple were ejected from the cab and pronounced dead at the scene.

It’s really important that older Americans involved in accidents are thoroughly checked out and monitored.  Not just in terms of orthopedic injuries but also in terms of potential head injuries.

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