In the days following Richardson's death several readers and folks on the street have asked me: what exactly is talk and die syndrome?
Closed head injuries are brain injuries that happen without any break in the skull. Because the skull remains "closed" there may or may not be visible wounds or bruising on the victim's head. The only way to tell if a person has suffered a closed head injury is by the simple fact they've been hit in the head and by any symptoms they may or may not have.
Epidural hematomas are the most dangerous of all the closed head injuries. Just like concussions, epidural hematomas often don't show any obvious signs of injury. The victim may get knocked out and may not. Victims might complain of headaches or blurred vision, but don't have to for epidural hematomas to be forming. There doesn't have to be any bleeding or bruising, and the only sign of injury may happen many hours -- or even days -- later.
That lapse in time between getting hit in the head and having symptoms -- which could be as minor as a headache or as major as sudden coma -- is what gives this combination the nickname "talk and die syndrome." Victims like Natasha Richardson may get injured and deny any complaints. They may turn away help and profess that they are fine (as Richardson did), all the while quietly bleeding into the space between the brain and the skull.
Richardson's accident shows how dangerous epidural hematoma can be. It may not always be possible to recognize an injury severe enough to cause a closed head injury, but any impact to the head that knocks the victim out or causes blurred vision should be seen at the emergency department.