I invited my dear friend Garry Rodgers — retired homicide detective with a second career as a forensic coroner — to share a fascinating post about the real cause of Elvis Presley’s death. Prepare to be wowed. Welcome to TKZ, Garry!

Elvis Presley suddenly dropped in the bathroom of his Graceland mansion on the afternoon of August 16, 1977. Elvis was rushed to Baptist Memorial Hospital in Memphis, Tennessee, where he was pronounced dead, then shipped to the morgue and autopsied the same afternoon. Three days later, the Memphis County coroner issued Elvis Presley’s death certificate stating the cause as hypertensive cardiovascular disease with atherosclerotic heart disease — a heart attack subsequent to high blood pressure and blocked coronary arteries.

It was a rush to judgment. Toxicology results soon identified ten pharmaceutical drugs in Elvis’s system. Codeine was at ten times the therapeutic level and the combination of other prescription drugs suggested a poly-pharmacy overdose. This revelation started immediate accusations of a cover-up and conspiracy theories quickly hinted at sinister criminal acts.

Four decades later, modern medicine and forensic science looked at the Presley case facts. The review indicated something entirely different from a heart attack or drug overdose really killed the King of Rock ‘n Roll. It said Elvis Presley accidentally died after long-term complications from earlier traumatic brain injuries (TBIs). TBIs are known as silent, stalking, and patient killers.

Looking back, it’s likely old accidental head injuries triggered events leading to Elvis Presley’s death.

From my experience investigating unexpected and unexplained sudden deaths, the accidental conclusion makes sense when you consider the totality of evidence in Elvis’ death. Setting aside media reports of gross negligence, arm-chair speculation of cover-up and fan accusations the King was murdered, there’s a simple and straightforward conclusion based on facts. But before examining the facts and knowing hindsight is 20/20, let’s first look at how coroners conduct sudden and unexplained death investigations.

Coroners are the judges of death. Their responsibilities include establishing five main facts surrounding a death. Coroners do not assign blame or fault. In the Presley case, the five facts determined at the immediate time were:

  1. Identity of Deceased — Elvis Aaron Presley
  2. Time of Death — Approximately 2:00 p.m. on Tuesday, August 16, 1977
  3. Place of Death — 3754 Elvis Presley Boulevard, Memphis, Tennessee
  4. Cause of Death — Heart attack
  5. Means of Death — Chronic heart disease

There’s a distinct difference between Cause of Death and Means of Death. Cause is the actual event. Means is the method in which death happened. Example: cause being a ruptured aorta with means being a motor vehicle crash, or cause being massive cerebral interruption with means being a gunshot wound to the head.

Once the facts are known, it’s the coroner’s duty to classify the Manner of Death. There are five universal manner of death classifications:

  1. Natural
  2. Homicide
  3. Suicide
  4. Accidental
  5. Undetermined

Elvis Presley’s death was ruled a natural event, thought at the time being an acute cardiac event from existing cardiovascular disease. If the coroner determined Elvis died from a drug overdose, the ruling would have been accidental. No one ever claimed it was suicide or homicide.

One principle of death investigation is to look for antecedent evidence—preexisting conditions which contributed to the death mechanism or was responsible for causing or continuing a chain of events that led to the death.

Another principle of death investigation is examining the cornerstone triangle of Scene—Body—History. This compiles the totality of evidence or case facts. Given that, let’s look at the evidence and case facts in Elvis Presley’s death.


Elvis was found on his bathroom floor, face down in front of the toilet. It was apparent he’d instantly collapsed from a sitting position and there was no sign of a distress struggle or attempt to summon help. When the paramedics arrived, Elvis was cold, blue, and had no vital signs. Rigor mortis had not set in, so he’d probably expired within the hour. He was transported by ambulance to Baptist Memorial Hospital where a vain attempt at resuscitation occurred because “he was Elvis”.

ER doctors declared Elvis dead at 3:16 p.m. He was then moved to the morgue where an autopsy was promptly performed. There was no suggestion of suicide or foul play, so there wasn’t a police investigation. The scene wasn’t photographed, nor preserved, and there was no accounting for what medications or other drugs might have been present at Graceland. There’s no official record of the coroner attending the scene as this was considered an in-hospital death and a routine occurrence.


Elvis was in terrible health. His weight estimated at 350 pounds—gaining 50 lbs. in the last few months of his life. He was virtually non-functional at the end, being mostly bed-ridden and requiring permanent nursing care. Elvis suffered from an enlarged heart which was twice the size of normal and showed advanced evidence of cardiovascular disease in his coronary vessels, aorta, and cerebral arteries—certainly more advanced than a normal 42-year-old would be. His lungs showed signs of emphysema, although he’d never smoked, and his bowel was twice the length of normal, with a partially-impacted stool estimated to be four months old.

Elvis also suffered from hypogammaglobinemia, which is an immune disorder, as well as showed evidence of an autoimmune inflammatory disorder.

Toxicology tested positive for ten separate prescription medications but showed negative for illicit drugs and alcohol. The only alarming pharmaceutical indicator, on its own, was codeine at ten times the prescribed manner but still not in lethal range.

This is a quote from Elvis’s toxicology report:

“Diazepam, methaqualone, phenobarbital, ethchlorvynol, and ethinamate are below or within their respective ranges. Codeine was present at a level approximately 10 times those concentrations found therapeutically. In view of the polypharmacy aspects, this case must be looked at in terms of the cumulative pharmacological effect of the drugs identified by the report.”


Elvis was born on January 8, 1935 in Tupelo, Mississippi and had a twin brother who died at birth. As a youth, Elvis was active and healthy which continued during his time in the U.S. military and all through his early performing stage when he was a bundle of energy. He began experimenting with amphetamines, probably to enhance his performances, but shied away from alcohol as it gave him violent tendencies.

In 1967, Elvis came under the primary care of Dr. George Nichopoulos who was well-known to celebrities. Then, Elvis was 32 years old and weighed 163 pounds. His only known medical ailment was slight high blood pressure, presumably due to his high-fat diet.

Also in 1967, Elvis’s health took a sudden turn with progressive pain, insomnia, hypertension, lethargy, irrational behavior and immense weigh gain. Over his remaining years, Elvis was seen by a number of different doctors and was hospitalized a number of times, all the while resorting to self-medication with a wide assortment of drugs from dozens of sources.

Doctor Nick, as Nichopoulos was called, stayed as Elvis’s personal physician till the end. He was present at the death scene as well as during the autopsy. Doctor Nick concurred with the coroner’s immediate conclusion that the cause of death was a natural cardiac event resulting from an arrhythmia, or sudden interruption of heartbeat, and agreed that Elvis’s death was not due to a drug overdose.

When the toxicology report was released, it came with a qualifier:

“The position of Elvis Presley’s body was such that he was about to sit down on the commode when the seizure occurred. He pitched forward onto the carpet, his rear in the air, and was dead by the time he hit the floor. If it had been a drug overdose, [Elvis Presley] would have slipped into an increasing state of slumber. He would have pulled up his pajama bottoms and crawled to the door to seek help. It takes hours to die from drugs.”

Because the tox report appeared to contradict the autopsy report’s stated cardiac cause of death, a prominent toxicologist was asked to review the findings. His opinion was:

Coupled with this toxicological data are the pathological findings and the reported history that the deceased had been mobile and functional within 8 hours prior to death. Together, all this information points to a conclusion that, whatever tolerance the deceased may have acquired to the many drugs found in his system, the strong probability is that these drugs were the major contribution to his demise.”

The Tennessee Board of Health then investigated Elvis’s death, which resulted in proceedings against Doctor Nick.

Evidence showed that during the seven and a half months preceding Elvis’s death—from January 1, 1977, to August 16, 1977—Doctor Nick wrote prescriptions for Elvis for at least 8,805 pills, tablets, vials, and injectables. Going back to January 1975, the count was 19,012.

These numbers might defy belief, but they came from an experienced team of investigators who visited 153 pharmacies and spent 1,090 hours going through 6,570,175 prescriptions and then, with the aid of two secretaries, spent another 1,120 hours organizing the evidence.

The drugs included uppers, downers, and powerful painkillers such as Dilaudid, Quaalude, Percodan, Demerol and Cocaine Hydrochloride in quantities more appropriate for those terminally ill with cancer.

Doctor Nick admitted to this. His defense was because Elvis was so wired on pain killers, he prescribed these medications to keep Elvis away from dangerous street drugs, thereby controlling Elvis’s addiction—addiction being a disease.

One of the defense witnesses, Dr. Forest Torrent, a prominent California physician and a pioneer in the use of opiates in pain treatment, explained how the effects of this level of codeine would have contributed to Elvis’s death.

Central to misconduct allegations was the issue of high codeine levels in Elvis at the time of death—codeine being the prime toxicological suspect as the pharmaceutical contributor. It was established that Elvis obtained codeine pills from a dentist the day before his death and Doctor Nick had no knowledge of it.

The jury bought it and absolved Doctor Nick of negligence in directly causing Elvis Presley’s fatal event.

Continuing Investigation

Dr. Torrent was convinced there were other contributing factors leading to Elvis’s death. In preparation for Doctor Nick’s trial, Dr. Torrent had access to all of Elvis Presley’s medical records, including the autopsy and toxicology reports. Incidentally, these two reports are now the property of the Presley estate and are sealed from public view until 2027, fifty years after Elvis’s death.

Dr. Torrent was intrigued by the sudden physiological and psychological changes in Elvis starting in 1967. He discovered that while in Los Angeles filming the movie Clambake, Elvis tripped over an electrical cord, fell, and cracked his head on the edge of a porcelain bathtub. Elvis was knocked unconscious and had to be hospitalized. Dr. Torrent found three other incidents where Elvis suffered head blows, and he suspected Elvis suffered from what’s now known as Traumatic Brain Injury—TBI—and that’s what caused progressive ailments leading to his death.

Dr. Torrent released a paper entitled Elvis Presley: Head Trauma, Autoimmunity, Pain, and Early Death. It’s a fascinating read—recently published in the credible medical journal Practical Pain Management.

Dr. Torrent builds a theory that Elvis’s bathtub head injury was so severe it jarred brain tissue loose, which leaked into his overall blood circulation. Later additional head injuries exacerbated the problem. This is now known to be a leading cause of autoimmune disorder, which causes a breakdown of other organs. This progression was unknown in 1967 and Elvis went untreated. Side effects of TBIs include chronic pain, irrational behavior, and severe bodily changes such as obesity and enlarged organs like hearts and bowels.

Today, TBI is a recognized health issue in professional contact sports as well as incidental to motor vehicle accidents and workplace falls or other head injury events.

Dr. Torrent’s hypothesis holds that with a change in mental state and suffering chronic pain, Elvis Presley entered a ten year spiral towards death. He became hopelessly addicted to pain killers, practiced a terribly unhealthy diet and lethargic lifestyle, and resorted to the typical addict’s habit of sneaking a fix wherever he could. This led to early coronary vascular disease and, combined with his escalating weight and pill consumption, Elvis was a heart attack ready to burst.

Note that I used the term “antecedent,” like all coroners do when assessing a cause of death. Given Dr. Torrent’s observations—and all the facts compiled from forty years—if I were the coroner completing Elvis Presley’s death certificate today, I’d write it like this:

  1. Identity of Deceased — Elvis Aaron Presley.
  2. Time of Death — Approximately 2:00 p.m. on Tuesday, August 16th, 1977.
  3. Place of Death — 3754 Elvis Presley Boulevard, Memphis, Tennessee.
  4. Cause of Death — Cardiac arrhythmia, antecedent to hypertensive cardiovascular disease with atherosclerotic heart disease, antecedent to poly-pharmacy, antecedent to autoimmune inflammatory disorder, antecedent to traumatic brain injury/injuries.
  5. Means of Death — Cumulative head trauma.

Therefore, I’d have to classify Elvis’s death as an accident.

There’s no one to blame—certainly not Elvis. He was a severely injured and sick man. There’s no specific negligence on anyone’s part and definitely no cover-up or conspiracy of a criminal act.

If Dr. Forrest Torrent is right, there simply wasn’t a proper understanding back then to clearly determine what really killed the King of Rock ‘n Roll.

*   *   *


Garry Rodgers now works as an investigative crime writer with a number of publications to his credit.


In The Attic is based on a true double homicide he investigated involving a psychopathic ax-murderer. Garry also hosts a popular blog at DyingWords.net.


Note from Sue: I read IN THE ATTIC in August of 2016, and I doubt the story will ever leave me. It’s just one of those books that I’ll never forget. Visceral, raw, emotional, and true!

This entry was posted in Writing and tagged , , , , by Sue Coletta. Bookmark the permalink.

About Sue Coletta

Sue Coletta is an award-winning crime writer and an active member of Mystery Writers of America, Sisters in Crime, and International Thriller Writers. Feedspot and Expertido.org named her Murder Blog as “Best 100 Crime Blogs on the Net.” She also blogs at the Kill Zone, Story Empire, and Writers Helping Writers. Sue lives with her husband in the Lakes Region of New Hampshire. Her backlist includes psychological thrillers, the Mayhem Series (books 1-3) and Grafton County Series, and true crime/narrative nonfiction. Now, she exclusively writes eco-thrillers, Mayhem Series (books 4-8 and continuing). Sue's appeared on the Emmy award-winning true crime series, Storm of Suspicion, and three episodes of A Time to Kill on Investigation Discovery. Learn more about Sue and her books at https://suecoletta.com


      • I have the majority of books on Elvis and I was glad somebody told the truth! I enjoyed your read and know they are making tremendous advancement on brain disorders….

      • Dear Doctor Rodgers,
        Thanks a Lot for Your Sapient Report on ELVIS Pressley’ Death.
        I ALSO Believe That ELVIS ‘ DIVORCE Worsened HIS Eating Habits BECAUSE of SADNESS Still IT DOES NOT MEAN This Caused HIS Unfortunate Death.
        BEST Regards.
        Rita Corrêa da Silva

    • I’m in shock
      I am terrified
      I am in a dead situation
      Can a death occur happen with arrested hydrophlase?

      • Interesting but everytime you read about why elvis died everyone sticks to same story. I’m an elvis tribute act plus a great fan I’ve been to graceland tupolo etc. Me and my son did our own tour. We went 2 weeks after his annerversary Aug 16th I didn’t matter where we went someone was there to tell us same story everywhere we went. We went to his ranch this bloke just come out of nowhere he said can I help you we said just doing our bit where Elvis fans he said he was a friend of elviss and had a chat with us. But after all we did there’s two things you need to explain to me one is how do you set up a funeral for the best entertainer who ever stepped on this earth an set up all them arrangements in two days its not in our world possible not for someone so popular. And secondly why hasn’t Lisa or priscilla really said that he his dead cos everytime I’ve been to shows or been where she’s doing speaches she has always been asked the same question his elvis dead and her answer has always been no comment. So why keep all us elvis fans and believers in suspence not that it would change owt in my mind but to me and many others out there we need to no no the truth be who is it that has got it not waiting for sealed documents which is stupid someone out there nos but why let it keep us wondering. I’m sorry about all this but I could go on forever God bless elvis. Ian Deakin

    • This piece took me down a medical rabbit hole including the link between TBIs and autoimmune disorders. Nice to hear you enjoyed the read, Debbie 🙂

      • Garry, would you mind expanding a bit more about what you found in that rabbit hole? For instance, what percentage of diagnosed TBI patients develop an autoimmune disorder? Are certain disorders more prevelent post TBI? I’ve had rheumatoid for years and never heard about the connection. Also had many of the so called “concussions” from sports and a high speed MVA. I don’t want to step on Elvis’s toes here but if you could just point me in a certain direction, I’ll try and take it from there. Thank you!

      • Cheers Sue from beautiful Toronto.
        Thank you so much for letting me enjoy such an interesting and articulate piece of Elvis and his probable death.
        Loved what you and Gary have done ❤️
        Hugs to you and yours and please dont hide from us lol lol lol

      • 8,805 pills, tablets etc. This Dr Nick. deserved prision. How can another doctor excused what he did? What a cover up. He killed Elvis and the Mafia Memphis just used his money and did nothing to help. Two of them even wrote a book and made a lot of money with “Elvis what happened ” Unfortunately Elvis was surrounded by parasites. I became his fan since he started – I was 10 years old.. Same age as Priscilla that now enjoys his money and doesn’t care about Lisa Marie with her struggles. She is the real owner. I don’t agree with this new medical statement. Cover up. Why the autopsy is locked? Give me a reason to believe in this new report. Have you heard about the 2 letters that he wrote and was found in the bathroom? The guy from the Mafia Memphis died last year and told somebody to publish it after his death. They even published that it was Elvis handwriting. Sorry but this nice report is just another cover up. In medical terms it gives you a lot of information that’s all. I don’t believe a word when it states that’s about Elvis. Sorry.

  1. This is, to repeat the word, utterly fascinating. Not just the details and truths behind the death but also as a lesson to us writers — that we must be careful with how we portray the roles and procedures of coroners, medical examiners, and on-scene police. Playing loose with this in crime novels is one of my pet peeves; it’s the sign of a rank amateur. And there’s no reason for us NOT to get the details right — or at least believable.

    As for Elvis, I hadn’t heard the TBI theory before, but from what we know about athletes, it makes sense. Thanks for the terrific post!

    • Great to know you liked the post, PJ. As for crime writing, I don’t really buy into that old saying “write what you know”. The vast majority of crime/thriller writers haven’t had personal experience with forensics and criminal investigations yet they pull it off very well. I think it’s more like “check what you write”. In crime fiction it’s all about suspending disbelief, right?

    • Totally agree, Kris. When the investigation isn’t believable it tanks the whole book. We can cut the boring paperwork, but it’s crucial that we correctly portray the law enforcement characters. You never know who’ll be reading the book … cops, coroners, crime writers. 😉

  2. Interesting reading and a theory that makes sense, considering modern

    Recently, I have been thinking about Michael Jackson and his death. As a nurse anesthesiologist, I have administered propofol since it came on the market. The criminal negligence by a cardiologist administering such a potent drug is obvious. Some time ago, I read the coroner’s report and was appalled at the derails regarding the lack of monitoring and understanding of the pharmacology of the drug.

    Currently, my fiction writing work in progress is a medical malpractice thriller and the next one will have to with anesthesia.

    • Thanks for agreeing the Elvis death cause theory makes sense, Jan, especially given your medical experience. I’ve considered writing a piece on the King of Pop’s death. From what I know, it was a case of gross negligence and medical malpractice but I’ll have to check the facts.

  3. Many thanks for hosting me, Sue! I was skeptical of this theory/hypothesis when I first stumbled upon Dr. Torrent’s article in Practical Pain Management so I called a pathologist acquaintance and ran it by her. She wasn’t familiar with the Presley case but did some research and said it made total sense given the entire picture of how Elvis drastically changed after his series of TBIs. She also verified that autoimmune disorders are now recognized side effects of TBIs. Tragic case all around.

  4. Welcome to TKZ, Garry. When I first read your post through Sue, I really wanted to see it cross posted here. This is a great & fascinating analysis of the mysterious death of such a big celebrity.

    I find true crime stories fascinating, especially when they’re told like fiction where you get immersed in the story & forget you’re reading a book.

    How do you tackle a true crime story from selecting the right story to plotting key elements to showcase it? With so many rabbit holes to explore, I would think there’d be challenges on nailing down the essence of a plot with pace.

    Thanks, Garry.

    • Thanks for suggesting to post the Elvis piece, Jordan, and again to Sue for hosting it. My experience with true crime is most stories start with the offense – finding the body is the usual opening scene and then goes forward chronologically. However, it also works with the hint of foul play like a missing person(s) and following the investigation path. Some writers even skillfully weave-in backstory through a prologue that starts it. But, I suspect most readers follow a lineal story-telling line rather than jumping around.

      I think it really depends on the story itself and a lot on the writer’s voice in telling it 🙂 As for selecting a story – I’d say there should be something out-of-the-ordinary like “In The Attic” where a psycho hid in his ex-girlfriend’s attic for 2 days with an ax – then dropped down at 3am and chopped her and her new lover to death. (True story 🙂

  5. Years ago, a friend of mine, a former sports journalist and columnist, introduced me to a former NFL player who had two Super Bowl rings and was by then a back coach for one of the teams of one of the spurious football leagues that popped up from time to time.

    The sportswriter said my new friend was interested in writing a autobiographical and motivational book, and they both wanted me to write and guide it.

    My new friend was both a motivational speaker and a gentleman, the kind of guy you wanted as your best friend when you were in grade school because no one, especially the bullies, would bother you. My friend powered through many a defensive line to gain yardage or to score, yet he had a gentleness of soul possessed by the great men and women.

    But we couldn’t get the book started. My friend wanted to–something inside him resisted. One day, he asked for the pages of notes and stuff we had developed, and that was that.

    My sportswriter friend and I eventually lost track of our mutual friend over the years. We eventually learned that he had left our area and move to another state to begin a career as a real estate broker.

    One day, on a whim, my sportswriter friend decided to look him up. He found our friend’s phone number and called him. When he told our football player friend who he was, our football player friend didn’t know him. The sportswriter mentioned my name. “Oh, I remember Jim Porter,” he said. Our football player friend asked my sportswriter friend not to be offended. He explained that he was in the NFL concussion study, and that as an apparent result of concussive injuries sustained over him playing years, he had a faulty recollection of his past.

    So I cannot believe the contempt that many football fans hold toward the NFL and college games, for imposing stiff penalties upon players who use certain deliberate tackling and blocking moves against other players. The olde-style Billy Cannon head on earth-moving-machine blocks and tackles above the shoulders are now prohibited. The critics vow that the game of football is being emasculated because the football-regulating authorities want to impose penalties and sanctions on those who would deliberately and seriously harm other athletes. (These critics, of course, watch the game while swilling beer and nachos and hot wings from the safety of a television room or football stadium seats, and don’t actually participate in the games themselves.)

    So I have an idea, now, on what difficulties Mr. Elvis’ staff, friends, and others had in trying to deal with his behavior and psychology.

    I like many others grieve over our loss of our friend Mr. Elvis. It’s so difficult to let him go. But now knowing how he was suffering, we must allow him to rest from the hell he was suffering in his later life. I have hopes that he rests in the arms of the Savior, despite the errors and bad judgments he made in his life.

    Thank you, Sue, and Mr. Rodgers for your post. You have added so much new information that gives us more dimensions to add to our stories.

    • It’s really interesting reading your comment, Jim. I think there have been countless cases of un/mis-diagnosed TBI cases ending in tragedy. Some involved violent acts like the Aaron Hernandez case suggests. I’m sure there’s a lot of butt-covering at work in professional sports over TBIs and we’re likely to see a gradual shift from the brutal violence wing-downing and beer-slurping gladiator fans pay to see. I’m also sure it was heartbreaking for those close to Elvis watching him expire without realizing what really was wrong.

    • Hi Clare! Thanks for commenting and it’s so nice to hear you found this piece fascinating. I had the same reaction when I first read Dr. Torrent’s article in Practical Pain Management. I think his take on Elvis’ demise is accurate.

      • Check it out sometime, Sue. Here’s the logline:

        “Having switched identities with an impersonator years before his ‘death,’ but having missed his chance to switch back, Elvis (Bruce Campbell) ends up an elderly resident at a nursing home in East Texas. Together with a fellow resident who believes he’s President Kennedy (Ossie Davis), Elvis must battle an evil Egyption entity who has chosen their care facility as his hunting grounds.”

        • What do you know about elvis,where is your evidence,hes there,until you have it and show the world,maybe you shouldn’t say anything,elvus loved his fans and his music, especially his gospel,he wouldn’t give it all up an less he had really passed away, witch I believe he has,everyone should let the poor man rest in peace,i have been an Elvis Presley fan since I was 13 and now I am 57,he has had a hard life, so please let him rest in peace,the other thing please have respect for his daughter and grandchildren,lisa loved her father dearly as he loved her,shes has feeling too,

  6. As an MD I felt the obligation to share my impression –
    “…injury was so severe it jarred brain tissue loose, which leaked into his overall blood circulation. Later additional head injuries exacerbated the problem. This is now known to be a leading cause of autoimmune disorder, which causes a breakdown of other organs.”
    The cause of autoimmune disease is largely unknown.
    A study in Annals of Neurology 2017 showed a significant statistical link in head injury (early life concussion(s)) and incidence of Multiple Sclerosis(MS). No causal link was proven but a provocative area of ongoing investigation in MS.
    I’m unaware of any proven link or studies suggesting head injuy as a definitive cause of autoimmune disorders.
    Thousands of studies are focused on finding the cause(s) of autoimmune diseases (e.g. rheumatoid arthritis) in hopes of preventing/treating/curing but limited results so far. Fingers crossed!
    I have no stake related to the theories presented regarding Elvis death but have to admit I find them highly speculative, unconvincing and not consistent with the science or pathophysiology that I am familiar with.

    • I would never disagree with you since medicine is your field, Tom, but you may find it interesting that more than one doctor told me multiple car accidents in a short span of time triggered my autoimmune disease (RA and PsA). None of which I caused, btw. 😉

    • Hi Tom & thanks for commenting. I based this piece on Dr. Torrent’s article in Practical Pain Management.


      Not sure if you clicked on the link and read his take on Elvis’s downfall, but it made enough sense to me that I furthered it. I also searched the topic and found a number of seemingly credible links of TBI to Autoimmune Disorders. I don’t mean to supplant my web browser with your credentials, but I think there’s some grounding to this hypothesis – certainly enough to raise it for discussion.

    • I find this article very interesting and informative. I am still not convinced the Dr. Nick should have continued prescribing all the meds that he did for Elvis. Rather than search for causes and treatments for Elvis’ ailments, he just kept giving him prescriptions to ease the ailment.

      This theory on TBI makes sense and it’s too bad that tissue samples were not saved so that confirmation could be made about this.

  7. Totally amazing, I’ve been a ELVIS fan for 55 years, and this is truly a must read for every ELVIS fan and indeed everyone that thinks his death was either a hoax or that the poor man died of eating too many burgers, the pain he must have been in does not bear thinking about, what a sad end to a great human being and unbelievable awesome entertainer the likes of we will never see again…sleep well ELVIS you deserve to be at peace…

  8. I have read about Elvis and TBI. I do believe that was the underlying cause of his drug abuse. So very sad and heart breaking that no one understood this issue in the 70’s. Poor Elvis knew something was wrong with him, and could not even begin to understand his problem. No wonder he needed pain meds to feel good, and to perform.
    Wonder why his family does not address this issue?
    I hate to think that people will continue to think Elvis took drugs just to get high.

    • I don’t believe for a second Elvis took drugs to get high. His poly-pharmacy abuse was all about pain-control which became an addiction. Tragically, his human support system failed him. Thanks for reading this piece and sharing your thoughts, Patricia.

  9. That was interesting. I’ve struck my head but not as many times or as hard. In the late 50s at school in gym class, I slid on loose rubber matting and struck my head on the sliding wood doors under the stage during a relay race. Nothing was done except asking me if I was alright. It was a mild concussion as I saw stars. Ah, the good old days. It’s a wonder some of us lived through them. 🙁 — Suzanne

    • Hahahaha. Right, Suzanne?

      More than one violent psychopaths were made via head injury. Not relevant to Elvis, of course, just throwing it out there. 😉

  10. Fascinating theory – I had seen some of this when it was first proposed a couple of years ago, and it’s certainly plausible.
    I do have a few questions though, on some items in this post:
    By most accounts from 1977, Elvis’ weight probably didn’t exceed the 250-275lb. range; he’s seen in photos from March vacationing in Hawaii with friends, even attempting some touch football, with a noticeable paunch, but nothing displaying morbid obesity. Then he was photographed through the spring at various concerts with what seemed to be fluctuations in weight, but still not outside that range. And then in June, in the last days of his final tour, CBS taped the special “Elvis in Concert”, which wouldn’t debut until October after his death. There, he’s decidedly overweight – some would say bloated – but again, it doesn’t appear to be in excess of 250-275. This was with 7 weeks left to live.
    Was your citing of his weight as being around 350 a typo, or if not, what do you base it on?
    Also I would question the accuracy of where you state he was “bedridden” and in need of “constant nursing care” near the end. This overstates his situation, making it sound as if he was immobile and almost in a vegetative state, which wasn’t the case at all.
    Following the end of the June concerts, he spent the summer months exclusively at Graceland, and while he did tend to shut himself off into his bedroom suite for hours or days at a stretch, he wasn’t an absolute recluse the entire time- fans caught him in photos in both July and early August going out for motorcycle rides either alone or in tandem with others. In those photos, you again see a heavyset Elvis, but it’s definitely not a man over 300 pounds. He also spent time with his daughter Lisa in the final 2 weeks, out and about at a Memphis amusement park and at a local movie theater he had secured for just them and several friends.
    His moods during those weeks were described as varying – he tried being upbeat for Lisa’s sake, but was clearly concerned (and possibly depressed) over the coming publication of a tell-all book by several former employees. That book “Elvis, What Happened?” was released at the beginning of August, only 2 weeks before his death. He had to have been going through a storm of emotions by that point: fear, anxiety, sense of betrayal, and more. This book was going to lay out in public detail his addictions and habits in a way he’d have no control over.
    And to make matters worse, his next tour was set to begin on August 17th in Maine, with a string of other locations over the next few weeks. He was likely roiling over how or if he’d face his fans with so much dirty laundry now exposed. This has always been one of the reasons cited by those theorizing suicide – however, Lisa was still present at the house that day, and it’s hard to fathom that he would consider such a thing with her literally down the hall, much less with the chance that she’d be the one to discover his body.
    His state of mind not withstanding, he spent that last overnight of the 15th into the 16th apparently determined to go forward with the tour, and briefly engaged in a game of racquetball with his cousin around sunrise, before returning to his room for the last time.
    There’s also something regarding his time of death – you stated that the paramedics did not find rigor mortis, however the accounts of those who first found him have always indicated it was present; his legs and arms were locked rigidly when they first turned him over, etc. And RM is mentioned specifically on the medical examiners’ report. By most estimates, he could have been dead up to 5 hours before being found – this would mean something went wrong soon after his girlfriend recalled seeing him enter the bathroom around 9am.
    There’s plenty of questions left unanswered to this day, but for the sake of accuracy, let’s not misrepresent what IS known about the case.

    • Hi Thomas and thanks for commenting. As in all cases, one has to be careful about what “Is” known compared to case facts. Elvis’s death is a high-profile case and that brings out all sorts of speculation which morphs into “facts”. Responding to your question of Elvis’s weight at his time of death, Dr.Torrent had access to Elvis’s autopsy report and Elvis was weighed at the postmortem. His weight was recorded on the PM report which is standard description protocol. Regarding rigor mortis – it’s highly unlikely a trauma team would try resuscitation on a patient exhibiting rigor. I don’t have access to the autopsy report, but it makes sense that the ME would describe Elvis being in a rigor state upon autopsy which was several hours after death.

  11. Found this very interesting and the only reasonable explanation on his passing since he left us in 1977.

  12. Thank u for the information about elvis Presley death it was interesting to read about him and what he was like wen he was alive with us ive always been an elvis fan since the age of 10 years old its because my mum liked Elvis Presley as well then i started to get into him with his music and films ive always been a great fan of his and will always will forever and forevermore long live the king of rock and rolll forever

  13. Elvis death was caused by DR Nick who gave him way too many pills. If you blame anyone, blame DR Nick.

  14. I’m a longtime Elvis fan who has read encyclopedias about the man and his life….and his sad death. I must say that this is the best article I’ve ever read on the subject of Elvis death! Of all the analysis on the effects of the long term drug use, I’ve not seen anyone else go back and connect it to head injuries. Writers normally say that he was introduced to drugs in the Army, and just assume his later use was connected to that, considering that he had the same group of people around him since high school. Great job!

    • Thanks for you kudus, David. I can’t take credit for “solving” this case. I’m only the reporter. Once I read Dr. Torrent’s article, this clarified things. Elvis was anything but a “druggie”. He was a wounded man with no true diagnosis and proper professional support.

  15. Thanks for writing this. Elvis’ death never made much sense to me, especially the behaviors described. Having read a lot about Elvis, these later behaviors just never really squared, for me, with the accounts of Elvis as a younger man from those who knew him. This really helps to clear it up for me. His amazing talent will live on.

  16. This makes perfect sense. In 1967 Elvis was hit over the head with a blunt object in the middle of the night on his way to the restroom. It was a severe hit and the next morning Elvis woke up dazed and told the Memphis Mafia what had happened while showing them a large bump protruding out of His head. That malorning his management immediately took control of the situation came to his home and kept him in bed for a number of days. No one was granted permission to see him during this period. His management told all of the guys who worked for him that from that point on, nobody was allowed to be alone with Elvis unless one of the people they chose was present as well.
    The general consensus (but it was never really proven) was that the management had him hit over the head so they could regain control of Elvis’ career, but more important his personal life.
    Elvis was becoming more and more unhappy about his career (he hadn’t played live since 1961) and was getting into (in his management’s opinion) some far out new things. Mainly spirituality , meditation etc.
    So to hear this now sends a chill down my spine.
    This is a true story. There’s a number of books that you can find this written about.
    Who knows what the true cause was. I hope I’m wrong.

      • I found this article fascinating, but you guys are really off on some off yoyr facts. Elvis was nowhere near 350lbs and was not anywhere nonfunctional or even bedridden. And he didn’t need nursing care. I’m not sure where these facts came from but they are way off.

    • Thanks for commenting, KG. I don’t know about this incident and can’t add anything. If it happened, it certainly would have made things worse.

  17. I worked with TBI in AnnAbor MI This was very spot on thanks for the share. Love Elvis music and thank you for clearing up mass condition.

  18. Thanks for the explanation. It all makes sense. However i do wish the world would let the king rest in peace!

  19. I’m a big Elvis fan since I was 12 if he fell why didn’t he get it checked out more he did take prescriptions out of control he was he will always be the king

  20. I absolutely and with no doubt agree with you Robert..it just breaks my heart?for Elvis and yes there most certainly are a lot of unanswered questions!what a lot of us fans think is that Elvis’death was not drug related nor did he die from natural causes!we theorize something sinister did Elvis in…it’s just too bad a lot of us will not be here in 2027 to learn the truth finally?in the mean time we hope to learn a little more about how Elvis REALLY DIED…

  21. Elvis was the King and always wil be. No one can ever take his place not even close. His voice was one of a kind .Also his personality. He was so good looking. My king forevet

  22. I really don’t know what to say. Now that I have read your work. I can say that I loved the man and cherish what he left us. Everyone had a part in it from his early experiments with drugs, to the Army days, the loss of his Mother, the scary angry outbursts, the shifty manager, and really in that type of work, who could you trust? I’ve heard that there was a possibility of a diagnosis bi-Polar (called manic-depression in the old days) condition in his emotional health too. Wow that’s ironic, “I Feel So Bad Is Playing” on the radio. In the end, who could blame him. That was the the “John Wayne era” where you were told to “be a man”. So, I don’t blame him. I want to think in understand him. Thanks.

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