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The 2002 On-Set Injury Some Fans Worry Is Linked To Bruce Willis' Aphasia

The recent announcement that legendary actor Bruce Willis would be retiring due to an aphasia diagnosis may have come as a huge surprise to his fans, but those close to the Hollywood icon say the writing was on the wall for years — and they can even point to a specific injury from 2002 that may have caused all of Willis' problems. 

According to John Hopkins Medicine, people who are diagnosed with aphasia have experienced damage "in a specific area of the brain that controls language expression and comprehension." The condition can be caused by an injury, stroke, brain tumor, infection, or dementia. In Willis' case, friends and family reportedly fear that an on-set head injury from 2002 — which prompted the actor to sue — could have been the underlying source of his prolonged aphasia symptoms.  

"The changes became noticeable about five years ago," an unnamed friend of Willis told The Sun. "It wasn't anything major at first, just little things, like needing assistance with lines by using earpieces. Everyone who knew him knew something was off, we just didn't know the exact diagnosis. We knew something cognitively was wrong, that was not a secret, but this specific diagnosis and the fact that he wasn't going to act anymore was surprising." So what was the on-set injury that could have possibly caused Willis so many problems?

Bruce Willis got struck in the head with a pyrotechnic 'projectile' while filming Tears of the Sun

According to a lawsuit filed by Willis against Revolution Studios — one of the production companies behind his 2003 film, "Tears of the Sun" — the acclaimed actor was struck on his forehead by a "projectile" in October 2002 following the detonation of pyrotechnics on set (via The Guardian). Willis allegedly suffered "extreme mental, physical, and emotional pain" as a result.

The aforementioned friend who spoke to The Sun about Willis said that people within his camp fear the "Tears of the Sun" injury somehow played a role in his declining health and aphasia diagnosis. In addition to Revolution Studios, the "Pulp Fiction" and "Die Hard" star also sued special effects pro Joe Pancake, who gave his side of the story to the Daily Mail on Thursday, March 31. 

"The judge laughed him out of court," Pancake charged, calling Willis' alleged on-set injury and possible aphasia connection "bulls***." According to Pancake, Willis "dragged [his] name through the mud for two years" before eventually deciding to settle in August 2005 (via Daily Mail). Pancake also said that it didn't make sense for aphasia symptoms to suddenly show up after a 20-year-old injury. However, a recent report by The New York Times claimed that while the condition can come on suddenly, "some people with aphasia develop it gradually." Dr. Shazam Hussain, director of the Cerebrovascular Center at Cleveland Clinic in Ohio, told the paper, "Their sentences become shorter and shorter...Then, they get to a point where they have difficulty expressing any language at all." Willis' family has not yet revealed what they believe has caused his aphasia.