BMW’s boss tried to create new buzz for his company’s latest car models on Tuesday, but his health ended up making headlines instead after he collapsed on stage.
As Harald Krüger began making his presentation at an auto show in Frankfurt, Germany, his voice suddenly wavered, he looked unsteady on his feet and then stumbled back and fell on the floor to gasps from the audience.
Three men rushed to his side, helped him get up and escorted the stunned executive off stage.
“At the BMW Group Press Conference, the Chairman of the Board of Management of BMW Group, Harald Krüger, experienced a moment of dizziness,” the automaker said in a statement to TODAY.
“As a result, the Press Conference was cancelled in order that Mr. Krüger could be examined by a doctor. Mr. Krüger’s health is stable and he is recovering well.”
Krüger, who turns 50 next month, is now at home, BMW said. He had recently had a heavy travel schedule and was not feeling well before the presentation, but decided to go ahead with it, the company told the Associated Press.
Syncope, the clinical term for fainting, can happen for a number of reasons, said Dr. Jason Block, a primary care physician at Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston. Block is not involved in Krüger’s treatment, but commented on fainting in general.
"Essentially, what happens is that there is an immediate loss of blood flow to the brain,” Block told TODAY.
In some cases, people just become light headed and woozy and have to sit or lie down. But sometimes, they actually pass out.
“When people lose consciousness, that’s the concern. Most syncope is not from a dangerous cause, but it can lead to dangerous consequences because if a person falls, obviously they can be injured,” Block said.
A sudden stimulus to the vagus nerve — which controls the heart — is the most common cause of fainting, known as vasovagal syncope, Block said. A sudden fright or shock can lead to a reduction in the heart rate and blood pressure. Because it happens so quickly, your body can’t compensate for it, he noted.
Being dehydrated can make that more common, and people who are traveling or ill are more likely to be dehydrated, Block said.
Stress or nerves can play a role as well, he added. Krüger has only been BMW’s top boss since May and this was reportedly his first time presenting at a major auto show.
People can also pass out when they suddenly stand up from a sitting position — a condition also caused by sudden drop in blood pressure and known as orthostatic hypotension.
The treatment for “run of the mill” fainting is simple.
“You rest, you hydrate, and it’s unlikely to happen again if this is the first time,” Block said. If it happens repeatedly, there are some people who are just more prone to fainting, he added.
There are also some dangerous, though much less common, causes of syncope, including heart problems.
Doctors get more worried if you pass out during physical activity, like jogging, or if you faint without any warning at all, Block said. Those instances will require a more intense evaluation.