Doctors Weigh In on Bob Saget's Fatal Head Injuries: 'Unfortunately Not Uncommon'

Medical professionals discuss the new developments surrounding Bob Saget's death in light of the recently released autopsy report, as well as the questions that remain unanswered

In light of the recently released autopsy report for Bob Saget, medical experts are weighing in on what might have happened to cause the tragedy.

The new findings were released one month after the Full House comedian was found dead in a Florida hotel on Jan 9. He was 65.

Saget's autopsy findings indicate an "unwitnessed fall backwards" that resulted in blunt force head trauma, complete with a list of extensive skull fractures and brain injuries. They include posterior scalp abrasions, subgaleal hemorrhage (blood that forms between the skull and scalp), discoloration in the upper and lower eyelids due to skull fracture, subdural hematoma (buildup of blood on the surface of the brain), and subarachnoid hemorrhage (bleeding in the space surrounding the brain).

"What happened to Bob Saget is extremely tragic, but unfortunately not uncommon. Every year, more than 61,000 Americans die from traumatic brain injury, and many of these are due to falls," says Dr. Leana Wen, an emergency physician and public health professor at George Washington University.

Margaret Cho | Bob Saget's Here For You
Bob Saget/Youtube

"Falling from standing, especially onto a hard surface like a bathtub or hard ground, can cause the kind of injury that Mr. Saget experienced," Dr. Wen, who did not examine Saget, continues. "A fracture in the back of the skull could lead to fractures in other parts of the skull. That kind of force could also lead to bleeding inside the brain. Because the skull is an enclosed structure, there is nowhere for blood to go except to press on the brain. That kind of pressure is what leads to unconsciousness and eventually to death."

Amid unanswered questions about how Saget could have fallen and injured himself so badly, Dr. Joshua Marcus, MD, Neurosurgery at Nuvance Health, says the injuries suggest more than "benign head trauma."

"The report reads like someone who just had a bad head trauma," Dr. Marcus, who also did not examine Saget, explains.

"I think the bigger question here is the mechanism of there being just a minor head trauma, which this just feels less like. [This] doesn't smell like a benign head trauma, here," he says. "It looks like someone who had a major roll down the stairs, car accident, bicycle accident, motorcycle accident."

While Dr. Marcus does acknowledge the possibility that Saget could have suffered a very bad fall, the injuries around his eye sockets still give him pause.

"There are people who fall from standing and have things that look just like traumatic injury. The thing that's tougher to track here are the fractures. To have a fracture, you have to have enough blunt force on a bone — directly on a bone — in order to fracture it," says Dr. Marcus. "It's very hard to fracture your orbit [bones in the eye socket area] without traumatizing your orbit."

As for the idea that the America's Funniest Home Videos star simply went to sleep after sustaining such severe head trauma, both Drs. Wen and Marcus say it's possible.

Bob Saget
Bob Saget. James Brickwood/getty

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"I have seen patients present to the ER days after the injury with ongoing bleeding. Others die within minutes," Dr. Wen says. "Many are able to be saved if they seek medical care in time, and the pressure on the brain can be relieved. It's possible that Mr. Saget fell, thought he could sleep it off, then went to bed — but unfortunately never woke up."

"With that amount of trauma, he probably was pretty confused," Dr. Marcus adds. "I think it's reasonable to have confusion and, honestly, lethargy, which is somnolence, which would put you to sleep."

Earlier this week, Saget's family confirmed in a statement to PEOPLE that he died due to head trauma. According to the autopsy results, Saget was also COVID-positive upon his death.

"The authorities have determined that Bob passed from head trauma," the Saget family said on Wednesday. "They have concluded that he accidentally hit the back of his head on something, thought nothing of it, and went to sleep."

"It's really critical to take head injury very seriously," notes Dr. Wen. "Use an abundance of caution and seek medical care as soon as possible — especially if the person who fell is older, on blood thinners, or taking medications that might make someone sleepier."

"Also, go to the ER if you have symptoms like blurred vision, severe headache, severe nausea or vomiting, or stroke-like symptoms," she adds. "And make sure to tell someone that you fell, so that they can keep checking on you."

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