Bob Saget died of head trauma, doctor explains how it can happen

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WISCONSIN (CBS 58) -- Bob Saget's shocking death in January was the result of head trauma.

According to Saget's family, "he accidently hit the back of his head on something, thought nothing of it and went to sleep."

Saget's death is a tragic reminder of how a serious head injury can go untreated.

"Most people, they get knocked unconscious and regain consciousness and then didn't realize it was as bad," said Dr. Josh Medow, a neurosurgeon at UW Health. "They have a headache, it's getting worse, maybe they should see someone, and then they think oh, I'll just take a shower and I'll feel better."

But those initially mild symptoms could be the sign of a potentially fatal injury, like a skull fracture or ruptured blood vessel.

Dr. Medow says think about when you bruise your arm. It slowly swells, but your skin stretches to accommodate the blood. That doesn't happen with head injuries.

"In your brain, on the other hand, it's surrounded by a skull and it doesn't stretch," Dr. Medow said. "So If you get a bruise in your brain and that grows, that could take hours, and with the swelling and no room for it to go, it'll apply more pressure and that causes stroke and other bad things to happen, and the brain dies."

Here are some warning signs: headache, sleepiness, vomiting or nausea, and you're at higher risk if you take blood thinners.

Dr. Medow says these injuries are not usually caused by simply bumping your head on something.

"Usually a fall that does it or you get hit with a object going at high speed, like a baseball or a softball, skiing accident," Dr. Medow said.

In fact actress Natasha Richardson died in 2009 after hitting her head while skiing. She initially did not realize the extent of the injury until it was too late.

Dr. Medow says what happened to Richardson and Saget isn't common, but it can happen. So if you hit your head and have any symptoms or take a blood thinner, act fast.

"You need to get help immediately," Dr. Medow said. "If you've lost consciousness, you need to get a scan."

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