Bruce Lee Cause of Death: Top 9 Things You Probably Don't Know

When it was July 20, 1973, Bruce Lee's death was divulged. A great icon is dead. He turned out to be a talented man and loved by many people. This left everyone perplexed considering the fact that he has been a very strong young man, just 32 years. Everyone was wondering, what is Bruce Lee's cause of death? How did he die? 

He seems to be very energetic the very day he died. On the afternoon, the day he passes away, Bruce Lee and Raymond Chow conversed; they debated about their upcoming movie, the Game of Death. Also, they both meet at Betty Ting Pei resident, analyzing the screenplay.

Here are top 9 things you probably don't know about the lost legend.

#1. People's reaction when Bruce Lee death was announced

Bruce Lee's cause of death was yet to be announced

There was news all over Hong Kong about Bruce Lee's death. The cause of his death was unknown then because the autopsy result was not yet out, just happened a few hours after his death. Even some journalists rumored that he was beaten up by twenty people. People were really disturbed about his death. 

Hong Kong commissioner of police was having a party at his home. When all the guests heard of about happened about the death of Bruce Lee, they all headed for the door. Charles Lowe calls Bruce Lee home, it was Bradon, his eight years old son then, that picks up the call, he said: "father has gone to movies movies movies".

#2. Bruce Lee Autopsy reveals his cause of death 

Autopsy reveals Bruce Lee cause of death
Betty Ting Pei on the 30th anniversary of Bruce Lee's death. Photo credit: Thomas Cheng/AFP/Getty Images

Bruce Lee's autopsy reveals he died of cerebral edema. There was no evidence of being injured, no bruising, or fracture in any part of his body. His heart was also in a good condition, so he did not die of heart failure, as shown from his blood vessels. On July 20, 1973, the day he died, he and chow were together, later he went to Betty ping pei, her lover. 

He complained about headaches, so Betty gave her medications containing aspirin (Equagesic pill). Then he lied down on Betty's bed to have some rest. On coming back, Betty found that she couldn't wake him up for two hours, and then she called chow. Chow called an ambulance; Bruce Lee was taken to Queen Elizabeth Hospital. 

He was already dead, but the doctors try their very best on the body to revive him back to life, including injecting Adrenaline directly to his heart. All efforts yield no results. The autopsy reveals his brain has swollen to 13%, the normal brain weighs 1400 grams, and Bruce Lee brain weighs 1575 grams.

#3. Bruce Lee's health prior to his death  

Bruce Lee sound health before his cause of death was reveal
Bruce Lee in Game of thrones. 

Bruce Lee seems to be healthy, he has a superhero physique. Yet, he has serious health issues that eventually cause his death. He always works on himself, enhancing his physique, he involves circuit training, doing isometric exercise, rope skipping, and so on. 

On May 10, 1973, during the time he was working on his film, Enter the Dragon. Bruce Lee got exhausted, he suddenly falls, he began shivering and vomiting, he was unable to talk. He was hastily taken to the hospital. Doctors did an extensive check-up on him, it was found that he had cerebral edema. Though the cause was not known. He later regains his health within some days and was able to speak again. 

#4. Bruce Lee and His Career  

Bruce Lee as a baby and when he was born
Bruce Lee was a baby with his parents. Photo credit: Wikipedia

Though Bruce Lee was brought up in  Hong Kong, he was born in San Francisco, California, on November 27, 1940. His father was into acting and an opera singer. At an early age, Bruce Lee starts to features films with the influence of his father being an actor. During his teenage years, he learns kung fu, he uses that to defend himself from the local gang.

Bruce a talented young man before his death
Bruce Lee dancing in 1958. Photo credit: Wikipedia

Bruce Lee, additionally, learns dancing, Hong Kong cha-cha dancing championship was won by him in 1958. When Bruce was a teenager, his father moved him to the United States because he always engaged in street fighting.  Bruce lived in Seattle, US,  with his close friends. During those days he was living with his family friends, he was able to finish high school. He was later admitted into the university where he studied philosophy and drama. He later went back to Seattle, where he established his very first martial art coaching.

Then, Bruce Lee moved to Oakland, California in 1964 to establish his second school. There he was coaching his student jeet Kune do, rather than the traditional martial arts that he knew from Hong kong. For jeet Kune do, Bruce applied his knowledge in what he studied in school philosophy, with fencing, boxing, and kung fu. 

At a Los Angeles-area karate tournament, he demonstrated his skill in kung fu. 
This attracts a television producer; he was able to take part in The Green Hornet, a television series between 1966 & 1967. In early 1971, Bruce Lee goes back to Hong Kong because the TV program was canceled along with the facts that he couldn't receive a suitable role.

Bruce Lee features in Green hornet before his death
Bruce Lee (Left) and Van Williams in The Green Hornet. Photo credit: Getty Images

There was a time, possibly in the mid-1969, during the shooting of Marlowe, Bruce was noticed to shatter a whole office through kickboxing and karate moves. Getting to Hong Kong, he had the opportunity of been featured in two films. In 1971, Tang shan da Xiong (Fists of Fury), or The Big Boss, and then in 1972, Jing wu men or Fist of Fury. With the two, Bruce Lee broke box-office records across Asia and he gains popularity in the United States, he took advantage of it to start his personal production company. In 1972, He coproduced Meng long Guo Jiang (Return of the Dragon).

In 1973, he set to release his new movie Enter the Dragon, which was a partnership work between Hong Kong and U.S based film production companies. The Dragon film hit worldwide, Bruce Lee became a celebrity star known worldwide. The same year, the film Hong Kong was about to be released, sadly he died six days before it was distributed.

#5. Sweat gland removal may cause his death

Bruce Lee scraping his sweat gland may be the cause of his death
Photo credit:

His cerebral edema may be brought on by the removal of his sweat gland in his underarm.  Bruce Lee chooses to remove it because it doesn't look well on the screen. His armpits look dark on the screen when he sweats, which bothered him.  Sweat glands are necessary for the body's regulation of temperature. Sweat glands allow heat loss from the body. Now, imagine, if part of the sweat gland is scrapped, then, how could the body be able to regulate heat successfully? 

The body won't be able to release all the heat generated through the body. Bruce Lee may have died from heatstroke caused by the inadequacy of his exocrine gland, the sweat gland. This may be the cause of him developing cerebral edema, the cause of his death. The very day Bruce Lee died, came to be one of the hottest days in Hong Kong. So he may have experienced heatstroke that leads to him developing such ailment, cerebral edema.

#6. Cerebral edema  

Cerebral edema is the cause of Bruce Lee's death
Photo credit: Getty Images

Cerebral edema is the swelling of the brain in response to overuse, injury, or infection. Depending on the cause, edema can occur everywhere in the brain or in a particular area. Most times, swelling occurs quickly. Edema increases pressure in the skull, referred to as intracranial pressure (ICP).  ICP prevents the flow of blood to the brain, thereby, preventing oxygen flow to the brain. Oxygen is very important for the brain to perform effectively. The swelling of the brain can even get worse if fluids cannot leave the brain (hydrocephalus). 

Cerebral edema can result in damage of the brain cells or even the death of the brain cells, if not taken care of as soon as possible. Yet, caring for cerebral edema is very simple, care such as having some rest, placing ice on the head, medications, avoiding elevation, or removal of excess fluid. 

Symptoms usually occur suddenly, symptoms include a headache, neck pain, and dizziness. The description of edema really matches the condition surrounding Bruce Lee's cause of death. He felt a headache that is why her lover, Betty gave him pain killer medications

#7. Some People Believe He was Cursed  

Bruce Lee death shock people around the world
Bruce Lee and his son, Bradon Lee. Photo credit: Flickr

Bruce Lee's death was a shock to people around the world. Years after his death, some began to rumor that Lee's family was cursed. Especially when his son, Bradon Lee also died at a very young age, 28 years. Both Bradon Lee and his father, Bruce Lee died at their international stardom. Both were working on their films when they both died.

Also, Bruce Lee had an elder brother that died before he was born. Linda Capwell Lee (Bruce Lee's wife) and Shannon Lee (Bruce Lee's daughter) denied the fact that the family was cursed. People believe the curse only target men in the family. It might just be a mere coincidence because Bruce lee father died at 64 years. Also, some allege that both were intentionally killed. Bradon Lee was accidentally shot on the stage while filming.

#8. Theory That Was Accepted about His Cause of Death

Equagesic pill taken by Bruce Lee cause his cerebral edema leading to his death

A forensic expert, named Teare claimed that his death is a result of an allergic reaction to the drug given to him by Betty Ting Pei. The drug contains an Equagesic pill. Betty said that it was not the first time she would give him the pill. Teare's claimed was accepted. 

An Equagesic pill consists of meprobamate and aspirin. It is good for treating short term pain as regards to anxiety and stress. Though Equagesic drugs are not dangerous, it definitely has its own implications. Equagesic side effects include dizziness, swelling, and irregular heartbeat rhythm. 

#9. Drug Allegations Were False  

A family photo of Bruce Lee shortly before his death and his cause of death was revealed.
Bruce Lee and his family shortly before his death. Photo credit: Jerel Minter via Quora

During the examination of Bruce Lee dead body, Dr. Lycette found residues of the Equagesic pill and small traces of cannabis (hash). He believed that Bruce Lee's cause of death could be cannabis intoxication or drug overdose. This squealed to the press. The tabloids also broadcast that he has been using marijuana before his death. There was no further evidence that showed he was addicted to drugs. Linda, Bruce Lee's wife said it was a scandal. 

Bruce Lee was buried in Seattle. Before the burial, Linda Lee issued public statements about the death of her husband, she said, " I myself do not hold anyone responsible for Bruce Lee death, the important thing to know is that Bruce has gone and will not return". 

What is your own view about Bruce Lee's cause of death? Please comment below and share it with your friends.


  1. Bruce Lee was killed by his peers for revealing ancient and sacred Chinese methods.


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