My students have just finished learning about body cavities and how surgeons normally remove part of the skull to allow the brain to swell (as in Gabby Giffords case). Here’s sports news that also affect pressure in the cranial cavity!
Oakland A’s pitcher Brandon McCarthy was hit by a line drive off the bat of our very own Angels’ Erick Aybar this past Wednesday. In the video, he appeared shaken, but conscious, and walked off the field on his own. It’s pretty standard to go to the hospital to “get checked out,” just like we should if we’re in a car accident and hit something.
CT scans showed an epidural hemorrhage, brain contusion and skull fracture. Basically the ball hit McCarthy’s temporal area hard enough to send pieces of the bone (it looks like it’s the temporal bone, but couldn’t tell on the video) into the cranial cavity. They say these pieces of bone nicked a blood vessel, and it makes sense: a contusion is a fancy word for a bruise – blood seeping out of the vessel in to the surrounding area, and epidural hemorrhage is basically saying that this blood is accumulating between the dura mater layer and the skull within the cranial cavity.
The pitcher underwent a 2 hour surgery to remove the blood and fix the vessel. Without this surgery, pressure would build up in the cranium the same way trauma causes the brain to swell. Either way, the brain would be pushed into the foramen magnum, causing incapacitation or death. Luckily, with slow bleeding, McCarthy had time, and that’s why he didn’t appear to have symptoms initially. It turned out he had life-threatening injuries that required immediate surgery. If he had waited, he would feel dizzy, or hard to breathe or talk, or have a major headache – then go to the hospital, where they would have to do the surgery, but with less chance of a full recovery.
Lesson for all of us to consider: hit your head hard enough (or something hits your head) – go get checked out. It may save your life.
- Wiki’s Epidural hematoma, another name for hemorrhage
- CheapSeat’s coverage with video
- USA Today’s coverage