Five Famous Tales of Brain Injury

While medical science has come a long way in recent years, the functioning of the human brain is still shrouded in mystery.  Acquired brain injuries; ones that are caused by physical trauma, or by substance abuse, hypoxia, or other external factors, can have unexpected effects on a person’s behavior and ability to function.

Some famous brain injury sufferers include:

Phineas Gage

Phineas Gage lived during the early 19th century.  He was an American railroad construction foreman.  His left frontal lobe was almost completely destroyed during a work-related accident when a large iron rod passed completely through his head.  Gage survived the accident, but his personality changed massively.  Gage was originally a cheerful and pleasant man, but his friends reported that after the accident he became surly and obstinate.  His recovery was long and difficult, but he did manage to go on to lead a relatively normal life.  He lived for twelve years after the accident.  The case of Phineas Gage changed attitudes among the medical profession and persuaded many that brain injury rehabilitation really was possible.

Chris Benoit

Professional wrestler Chris Benoit suffered brain damage from all of the bumps and falls he went through in his years in the ring.  In 2007, Benoit killed his family and then committed suicide himself.  The autopsy revealed that Benoit’s brain was in a similar state to what one would see in an elderly Alzheimer’s patient.  Some doctors believe that it was this damage which led him to commit the crime.

Ken Norton

Heavyweight boxer Ken Norton achieved household fame when he defeated Muhammad Ali when he was at his peak.  When he retired from boxing, he went on to make several TV and film appearances.  In 1986, Norton was seriously injured in a car accident.  The resulting brain damage left him with slow and slurred speech, but he was otherwise able to lead a fairly normal life.  Norton has made several public appearances since his accident.

Chris Irwin

Chris Irwin is a former racing driver.  He took part in ten Formula One Grand Prix’s and scored two championship points before his career ended prematurely thanks to an accident during practice for the 1000KM Nurburgring endurance race.

Irwin suffered severe head injuries when his car flipped end over end several times.  He eventually made a full recovery but was unable to return to the track.  He now lives a fairly normal life, although he stays out of the public eye. He is not reported as needing home support services because of his injuries, but some reports suggest that he still has flashbacks of his accident.

James Brady

James Brady worked as an assistant to President Ronald Reagan.  He suffered near-fatal injuries as a result of an assassination attempt on Reagan in 1981.  His injuries left him permanently disabled, and dependent on home support services for many years.  He eventually recovered almost all speech abilities and cognitive function, but that brain injury rehabilitation process took many years.  Brady is now a vocal supporter of handgun control.

The guest piece was written by Amy Fowler on behalf of Voyage, experts in brain injury rehabilitation and other home support services. Find out more by clicking here, or here. To read about coping with memory loss after a brain injury, click here.