Alex Trebek, the face of the Jeopardy! franchise for more than three decades, will be taking time off from the syndicated game show while he recovers from brain surgery. He announced the hiatus in a video posted to the show’s online accounts Thursday.
“Some of you may have heard by now that during the holiday break, I had a slight medical problem: a subdural hematoma, blood clots on the brain caused by a fall I endured about two months ago,” Trebek, 77, said in the video.
“The surgery was successful. After two days in the hospital, I came home to start recovery.”
The show elaborated on its website, saying Trebek had been “experiencing complications from hitting his head in a fall that took place in October.” Admitted to Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles on Dec. 15, Trebek underwent the operation the next day and left the hospital just two days after that.
“Alex spent Christmas at home with his family, and he will return to the JEOPARDY! studio for taping in mid-January,” the show noted, adding that with the exception of one regular feature, the show’s “broadcast schedule is unaffected.”
As NPR’s Danny Zwerdling reported in 2016, a subdural hematoma can be an insidious, dangerous condition that can develop from seemingly minor head injuries, especially in older people. As the brain shrinks and pulls away from a protective membrane known as the dura mater, the veins connecting the two become more vulnerable to a bumped head or even a sudden jerking motion.
If those veins tear, Danny explained, bleeding can occur on the surface of the brain and “as that blood starts to pool over days or weeks, it irritates the brain cells. And if the pool’s big enough, it presses on the brain and damages it, much like a tumor.”
“Researchers estimate there could be more than 200,000 subdural hematoma injuries diagnosed annually at all the hospitals across the country,” Danny added.
The surgery is not the only health scare Trebek has endured in the past decade; he has had two heart attacks since 2007.
But Trebek, who has helmed Jeopardy! since its 1984 revival and hosted other game shows before that, has no intention of hanging up the microphone.
“The prognosis is excellent,” he said in the video, “and I expect to be back in the studio taping more Jeopardy! programs very, very soon.”