Yesterday 45 year-old actress Natasha Richardson died tragically after she sustained a brain injury in what has been reported as a minor fall on a Quebec ski slope. It has been reported in some media outlets that her brain become swollen after she sustained a shearing injury caused by whiplash type forces during her fall down.
While her autopsy has not been made public and we have no direct knowledge of the facts surrounding her death, the fact that what at first seemed to be a relatively minor injury resulted in tragedy is not an unfamiliar circumstance. We have represented many brain injured clients who have suffered their injuries as a result of what at first seemed like mundane every day trauma.
In 2005 Goldberg & Goldberg hired a world renowned expert on vestibular function to measure shearing forces on the brain and theorize on how they translate to brain injuries.. Our expert’s reseach compared the relatively mundane forces that the brain experiences daily during activities of normal living to excessive forces on the brain that occur in activities like roller coaster riding or piloting a jet fighter. What we learned was extraordinary. Force on the brain cannot be measured on a linear axis. The head and brain moves rotationally on a 360 degress plane. The body cannot compensate for some of these more unusual head movements that at first glance seem ordinary. As a result tremendous shearing forces can injury the brain. This research has really helped us learn and understand the mechanisms of head injuries.