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Did Henry VIII of England have a TBI?

King Henry VIII was one of the most influential monarchs in British history. He created the Church of England after a dispute with the Catholic Church over his desire to annul his first marriage. In his quest for a male heir, Henry ended up getting married six times and executing two of his wives.

His erratic behavior has been the subject of books, plays and movies ever since. Now, according to, researchers at Yale University believe they have an explanation: Henry may have been suffering the effects of repeated head injuries.

Of course, diagnosing a patient nearly 470 years after his death is no easy feat. But there were clues for the Yale team to examine. Historians say that Henry suffered at least three major head injuries. The first occurred during a jousting tournament in 1524. A year later, he fell while attempting to pole-vault over a brook.

However, it was not until 1536 when historians believe Henry’s behavior changed. That year, another jousting accident left him unconscious for two hours. After that, the king known for his wise military and policy decisions became forgetful, impulsive and quick to anger, which he sometimes took out on his wives.

Traumatic brain injury can cause a range of symptoms, impotence among them. Evidence suggests that Henry had trouble with sexual intercourse as early as 1533, which could have been caused by the first two brain injuries.

For history buffs, this theory is intriguing. For those of us concerned with the prevalence of head trauma in modern society, it is an example of how TBI can profoundly affect the victim’s personality and ability to deal with the world.

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