6 Famous People Who Suffered Traumatic Brain Injuries

Traumatic brain injury (TBI) refers to brain dysfunction caused by an external force. This dysfunction can affect people in all kinds of ways, such as impairing their cognitive and physical abilities, as well as causing emotional disorders, mood swings, and changes to their personalities.

There are also many ways people can get TBI, but the most basic cause is an impact on the head. Specific causes include car accidents, slips and falls, falling objects, fights, and other incidents like these.

TBI doesn’t discriminate – no matter who you are, you can become a victim of TBI under the “right” circumstances. No way is this more clearly demonstrated than considering celebrities, historical figures, and other famous people who experienced – and currently experience – TBI during their lives.

1. Steve Wozniak

Apple Inc. co-founder and undisputed computer whiz Steve Wozniak suffered a traumatic brain injury as the result of a plane crash. On Feb. 7, 1981, “Woz” was piloting a small single-engine airplane when it stalled during a climb shortly after takeoff. The plane slammed onto the runway and crashed into an embankment. Wozniak and his three passengers survived, but he suffered from anterograde amnesia for five weeks, during which he couldn’t create new memories.

Wozniak slowly regained his ability to remember, but he found that he lost interest in engineering and design. This is often credited as one of the reasons he chose to initially leave Apple.

2. Gary Busey

Actor Gary Busey is known for his roles in iconic movies such as The Buddy Holly Story, Lethal Weapon, and Point Break, but he is also known as a TBI survivor. In 1988, Busey was riding his motorcycle without a helmet when he had a nearly fatal accident. Doctors allegedly told Busey that he arrived at the hospital within minutes of death after sliding onto a patch of gravel and flipping over his handlebars at 40 mph.

Busey fell into a coma for more than four weeks. Upon awakening, Busey said he recalled a spiritual experience and felt a renewed appreciation and passion for life.

3. Phineas P. Gage

You may not have heard of Phineas P. Gage, but he is the subject of one of psychology and neuroscience’s most remarkable case studies. Gage was working as a railroad foreman on Sept. 13, 1848, overseeing a blasting project to clear rock from the surrounding area.

When one of the charges went off, an iron rod used to pack sand into the rock to contain the blast shot out and struck Gage. Like a massive arrow, the iron rod struck Gage in his left cheek and continued in an angled upward trajectory behind his left eye, through the left side of his brain, and exited completely through the top of his skull.

Gage would be famous enough for miraculously surviving the incredible injury, but he’s most known for what happened to him after the accident. It’s said that the damage to his brain lowered his social inhibitions, which caused him to behave in ways that were considered inappropriate, such as using excessive profanity and displaying difficulty with impulse control.

4. Henry VIII

You probably didn’t expect to see royalty on this list, but here’s Henry VIII, one of the most famous kings of the Tudor Dynasty. It’s said that Henry VIII suffered two major head injuries during his 30s. The first occurred in 1524 in a jousting tournament. During the incident, his opponent’s lance penetrated his visor. The following year, he fell head-first into a broken while attempting to pole-vault across it.

Not only did Henry VIII lose consciousness for two hours in the jousting accident, but it’s believed that traumatic brain injury altered his personality. Like Phineas Gage, Henry VIII exhibited increasingly erratic behavior that was a departure from the intellectual and even-tempered nature he displayed in his youth.

5. Frankie Muniz

Known most famously for his starring role in the sitcom “Malcolm in the Middle” which ran for six years, it’s said Frankie Muniz has no memory of ever being on the show. Muniz played the titular character Malcolm, a highly gifted child with an IQ of 165 and a photographic memory.

Although it’s not clear how, it’s believed that Muniz may have suffered concussions as a teenager that caused mini strokes later in life and led to amnesia that wiped, at least partially, some memories from his teenage years.

6. Richard Ramirez

Also known as the “Night Stalker,” Richard Ramirez was a prolific criminal in some of the worst ways possible. Not only was he a convicted serial killer of 13 people, but he was also convicted of 11 counts of sexual assault, 14 counts of burglary, and five counts of attempted murder.

In attempting to explain his behavior, researchers have speculated that severe and repeated physical abuse during his childhood caused him to suffer multiple brain injuries. As a result of his total injuries, Ramirez may have developed temporal lobe epilepsy, hypersexuality, and severe aggression. All of these factors could have played a role in the decisions he made as the infamous Nightstalker during the mid-1980s.


The outcomes of a traumatic brain injury vary on a case-by-case basis. There are many examples of people who led extraordinary, infamous, or completely normal lives after suffering from TBI. That said, you should always consider your legal options if you suffer from this condition as a result of someone else’s negligence in a personal injury accident.

Learn more about legal options that may be available to you during this time by contacting the Law Office of Robert J. Kaiser for assistance.

Contact the Law Office of Robert J. Kaiser

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