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22nd Nov 2022

Bruce Lee’s cause of death may have just been discovered

Dave Hanratty

Bruce Lee death cause

The iconic martial artist passed away in 1973 at the age of 32.

Bruce Lee, arguably the most famous martial artist in pop culture history, left behind an incredible legacy when he passed away suddenly at just 32 years of age.

Lee died in 1973, with health officials citing a cerebral oedema, which is the excess accumulation of fluid in the brain. Lee had been suffering from headaches and seizures prior to his death, and failed to wake up after taking a nap on the evening of 20 July 1973.

No visible external injuries were present, yet doctors discovered that his brain had swelled considerably. His passing was referred to as “death by misadventure”, leading to much rumour and speculation as to precisely what happened.

Almost 50 years on, a group of specialists in Spain believe they have a new answer. According to Variety, researchers who contributed to the Clinical Kidney Journal have argued that Lee drank too much water, citing his kidney’s “inability to excrete excess water”.

“The cause of [Lee’s] death is unknown, although numerous hypotheses have been proposed, from assassination by gangsters to the more recent suggestion in 2018 that he died from heatstroke,” notes the journal outline.

“The necropsy showed cerebral oedema. A prior episode was diagnosed as cerebral oedema two months earlier. We now propose, based on an analysis of publicly available information, that the cause of death was cerebral oedema due to hyponatraemia.

“In other words, we propose that the kidney’s inability to excrete excess water killed Bruce Lee.”

The outline goes on to state that Lee had “multiple” risk factors for hyponatraemia that may have included high chronic fluid intake, factors that acutely increase thirst – such as marijuana – and factors that lower kidney functions including “prescription drugs (diuretics, non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs, opioids, antiepileptic drugs), alcohol, chronic low solute intake, a past history of acute kidney injury and exercise”.

The specialists go on to argue that Lee died directly as a result of a specific form of kidney dysfunction – “the inability to excrete enough water to maintain water homeostasis”.

“This may lead to hyponatraemia, cerebral oedema and death within hours if excess water intake is not matched by water excretion in urine.

“Given that hyponatraemia is frequent, as is found in up to 40% of hospitalised persons, and may cause death due to excessive water ingestion even in young healthy persons, there is a need for a wider dissemination of the concept that excessive water intake can kill.”

You can read the full journal hypothesis here.