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Actress Natasha Richardson’s traumatic and unexpected death after a skiing accident this week illustrates the dire importance of taking head injuries very seriously.

Richardson’s injury initially appeared innocuous. She was taking a ski lesson on a Canadian bunny slope when she fell and hit her head, and according to officials present, was joking and talking afterward, and didn’t complain of pain. In her hotel room an hour later, however, she developed a severe headache and had to be rushed to the hospital. She eventually died of blunt impact to the head.

It’s very common for someone who’s had a fall or been in a car accident to appear perfectly lucid just after the impact but then to suddenly, rapidly deteriorate, Dr. Carmelo Graffagnino, director of Duke University Medical Center’s Neurosciences Critical Care Unit, told CNN…"A patient can appear so deceivingly normal at first," said Graffagnino…"But they actually have a brain bleed and as the pressure builds up, they’ll experience classic symptoms of a traumatic brain injury." –CNN

Tragically, the first ambulance to arrive at the ski resort after Richardson’s fall was refused and paramedics were told (we don’t yet know by whom) that their services were unnecessary. By the time Richardson did get to the hospital, the damage to her brain caused by swelling was irreparable.

If you or someone you’re with sustains a head injury, however seemingly minor, please err on the side of caution and allow a medical professional to evaluate your condition.

Even if it looks dorky, always wear a helmet when engaging in potentially dangerous activities such as biking, horseback riding, skiing or snowboarding.

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