Why can’t your body handle a punch to the liver? – Human Anatomy | Kenhub


This is the liver, and this is what happens
when someone punches you in the liver. A well-placed shot to the liver even one that’s
not particularly hard can put you in excruciating pain. If you’ve yet to experience this sensation
in your life, well, consider yourself fortunate. A blow to the liver whether a punch, a knee
or a swift kick will likely leave you incapacitated. In addition to the agonizing pain, you’ll
feel breathless, fatigued. Your legs may give out from under you. It’s not a matter of willpower or how big
or tough you are. A swift shot to the liver will shut your body
down. So why does this happen? Why is your liver so vulnerable? If we compare the liver shot to, say, the
head shot, you can see that they’re both extremely devastating. They both target a vulnerable part of the
body yet the effects of these strikes are actually quite different. When you see professional tough guys like
Donald “Cowboy” Cerrone take a multitude of shots to the head without blinking only to
collapse when they’re struck by a single blow to the body, it seems kind of strange. However, the thing is when it comes to head
shots, well, they don’t really hurt – at least not in the moment. When you get knocked in the head, you become
disoriented, but you don’t necessarily process the pain. This is the opposite of a liver shot where
your mind is actually clear but your body has completely shut down. Now let’s take a closer look at the liver
to really understand what’s going on. This reddish-brown wedge-shaped organ is the
liver. It’s located on the right side of the body
below the diaphragm and overlying the gallbladder. It’s the largest and heaviest internal organ
in the human body weighing about one point five kilograms. This is about two point five percent of an
adult human’s body weight. The liver is responsible for many important
functions including the detoxification of harmful substances, protein synthesis, nutrient
storage and the production of biochemicals necessary for digestion. It’s one of the most vital organs in the body. If your liver fails and you don’t get a liver
transplant, you die. According to a two thousand thirteen study
on blunt liver injuries, if a healthy adult male were to take a direct liver punch to
the side of the abdomen with a minimum punch speed of five meters per second, it would
be enough to cause liver injury. To put this in perspective, the average adult
male is likely capable of punching at a speed of six meters per second with estimates of
pro boxers or MMA fighters punching over twice that. Here you can see the extent of liver damage
caused by a six meter-per-second liver punch. A comparison of the simulated result on the
right with the victim on the left shows the severity of such an injury. A perfectly placed liver shot with even moderate
power and speed could rupture a liver. This is a fight between former UFC heavyweight
champion Bas Rutten – and expert in liver shots – and Jason DeLucia. This shot right here is the famous shot that
ruptured DeLucia’s liver. Okay, injury or not, the liver shot is still
going to take you out – at least temporarily – and the cause of this sudden paralysis
isn’t just due to extreme pain. Physiologically, there’s actually more going
on. When a punch initially lands on the liver,
there are dynamic pressure changes in the organ itself. The liver is flexible. It’s pliable, so if one side of the liver
gets compressed with a punch, the other side will get stretched. There are a lot of nerve fibers in the capsule
around the liver linking it directly to the autonomic nervous system. So, as the liver gets compressed and stretched
from the impact, you get nerve signals that move along this pathway. The part of the nervous system that controls
involuntary actions is the autonomic nervous system or ANS. Now, the longest nerve of the ANS is the vagus
nerve, and when this gets stimulated, a series of events start to unfold. First, there’s a sudden dilation or widening
of blood vessels all over your body with the exception of the brain. Normally when this happens, your heart rate
increases to maintain blood pressure to the cardiovascular system but in this case, the
stimulation of the vagal nerve network causes a decrease in heart rate. This happens at the same time as the dilation
of blood vessels so the blood pressure drops dramatically. In a last ditch effort to control the blood
pressure and maintain blood flow to the brain – since the functioning brain is vital for
life – the body tries to force itself into a horizontal or supine position. This survival tactic is the reason for the
collapse, and if the liver shot is severe enough, you could also lose consciousness. In a professional fight setting, all of this
is amplified due to the additional elements of pain, stress and dehydration from the weight
cut. Now you may be asking yourself, why this doesn’t
seem to happen with other internal organs? But the truth is, it does. Many organs are susceptible in the same way. It’s just that with the liver being the largest
organ in the abdomen and situated in a relatively precarious position that is protruding slightly
from under the rib cage, it becomes a larger and more exposed target. The kidneys, in comparison, are a lot less
vulnerable due to the surrounding muscle mass as well as being hidden well within the rib
cage. As we’ve evolved over time, the role of the
liver has increased in importance leading to an increase in size. Why the rib cage didn’t expand to fully protect
the liver, a vital organ, remains unclear. But as we all know, the human body isn’t a
perfect system. At the end of the day, if you get punched
in the liver, you will go down. But, as defenseless as you may feel, perhaps
there’s still a chance that you’re the one who will deliver the final blow. Thanks for watching. We hope you enjoyed this topic and if you’ve
ever been punched or kicked in the liver, tell us about it in the comments below. Give this video a thumbs up, share it, and
if you want to learn more about the fascinating liver, you can go ahead and check out the
Kenhub website. Alright, guys, until next time.

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