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Thread: Breath knocked out of you - physical symptoms?

  1. #1
    practical experience, FTW BarbaraKE's Avatar
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    Breath knocked out of you - physical symptoms?

    I have a situation where a character falls backwards over a bench. He lands flat on his back and gets the breath knocked out of him. What would be some physical symptoms?

    (It's been years since this happened to me to my memory of how I felt is pretty hazy.)

    Specifically, would your body curl up (fetal position) or stretch out?

    Any help is appreciated (and rep points will be given)

  2. #2
    practical experience, FTW Tsu Dho Nimh's Avatar
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    You might roll over onto your side, sort of curled up, gasping or just lie there gasping. You literally can't breathe - can't inhale - because the nerves that make it happen are briefly stunned.

    It's more likely to happen if you take a hard hit to the abdomen than if you fall over backward (that's usually a head-hit with no loss of breathing ability).

    The last time it happened to me I fell while skiiing and landed belly down on a chunkof hardpack snow.

  3. #3
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    Quote Originally Posted by BarbaraKE View Post
    I have a situation where a character falls backwards over a bench. He lands flat on his back and gets the breath knocked out of him. What would be some physical symptoms?

    Specifically, would your body curl up (fetal position) or stretch out?
    Last time I had the breath knocked out of me, it was kicked out. I wasn't even aware of it since I was in the midst of sparring, so I moved in to clock the guy who'd kicked me. Before I got there he asked if I was okay. I said, "ah", or something like it, kind of like Sergeant Hulka did in Stripes when the mortar round blew up the tower he was standing on. Apparently, my only "symptoms" were bug eyes and and temporary inability to speak or breathe. I spent a little time wandering around with hands up and behind my head, doing the archy backy thing to get some air. Guess it worked. I'm still breathing.

    Time before that, and much closer to what you're talking about, I fell out of a tree, landed smack dab flat on my back. Knew for a fact the air had all just poofed outta me, so all I did was stay there, flat on my back, till I could breathe again. That said, I could have just as easily gotten up and walked around. Neither case seemed debilitating, nor did either last very long.

  4. #4
    practical experience, FTW mab's Avatar
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    this happened to me when I was little, I was on the see-saw with my brother, he got off whilst I was in mid-air, I came down with a bump (leaning forwards) and hit my abdomen. I totally panicked, couldn't breathe, couldn't speak, felt like I wanted to struggle for breath or cry out, but couldn't. Horrible! It did hurt, but its the sheer panic that I remember most vividly.
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    practical experience, FTW BarbaraKE's Avatar
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    Thank you both. Like Tsu Dho Nimh, I have gotten hit in the abdomen (solar plexus, to be precise) and I know I curled up.

    I also once fell off a high bar and landed flat on my back (which is more similar what I want to happen in my story). But I don't remember if I curled up or not. I think I just lay there stunned for a few seconds (like what Summonere describes).

    Either situation is fine, I just want to be accurate. Thanks to you both.

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    Your guy falling over backwards on the bench needs to fall fast enough and hard enough to have the wind knocked out--and you're good for him to be trying to gasp, unable to speak, not going fetal but maked repeated little lurches forward in which he does not actually curl up. People in respiratory distress don't go fetal but rather tend to extend (instead of flex) the spine, attempting to draw in a brath.

    The lungs operate on a vaccuum--thoracic cavity increases in size when ribs and diaphragm contract, this air moves in, they relax and we ehale, but always in this vacuum as we move that tidal volume, there is a residual volume that occupies air space in the lungs. When your guy falls hard on his back, the concussion of the fall literally pushed the residual air volume out of his lungs, disturbing the balance/upsetting the vacuum...so he fells he cannot breathe. His little gasps that feel so ineffective are him regaining his residual volume. In a minute or so, he manages to get those residual CCs of air restored and the system is back in balance.

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    Maybull the Bulldog StephanieFox's Avatar
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    Your chest will hurt, too.


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    Chief High Procrastinator Broadswordbabe's Avatar
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    I tripped over a low wall while being forced backwards in a role-play fight, and fell about 3 feet down, flat on my back.

    The main thing i remember is the sensation of the earth actually smacking into me, a sort of big flat 'whap'. And the scary feeling of being paralysed for a few seconds - I couldn't move, gasped in a breath from fright (it's amazing how many thoughts of spinal injuries and permanent paralysis can go through your head in about 10 seconds) realised I wasn't paralysed, and got up. I felt a bit light headed for a few minutes and some of my back muscles were tender for a day or so. But I was wearing leather armour, reasonably rigid, which probably prevented worse bruising. What your character's wearing (and the type of surface they land on) will make a difference.

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    no, really jannawrites's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by mab View Post
    I totally panicked, couldn't breathe, couldn't speak, felt like I wanted to struggle for breath or cry out, but couldn't. Horrible! It did hurt, but its the sheer panic that I remember most vividly.
    My daughter got the wind knocked out of her a few weeks ago, and it threw me back to times it happened to me. That fear and surprise, along with the irregular breathing, caused her to grunt involuntarily

    uhhh.... uhhh... uhhh... uhhh...

    which is exactly how I remember it.

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    practical experience, FTW BarbaraKE's Avatar
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    You guys are good.

    Horseshoes - this makes perfect sense...

    People in respiratory distress don't go fetal but rather tend to extend (instead of flex) the spine, attempting to draw in a brath.
    But what was throwing me is that I distinctly remember curling up when I was unable to breath after being hit in the solar plexus. But maybe that was due to being hit rather than being unable to breath.

    Everyone has been very helpful. I'm going to combine several of the responses - I like the idea of several gasps/grunts and the transient fear of being paralyzed. It works out perfectly.

    Thanks!!

  11. #11
    Infuriatingly Theoretical TheIT's Avatar
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    I got the breath knocked out of me when I was a little girl. I was going down stairs wearing socks and slipped. One of the stair edges hit me in the middle of my back. I remember being frightened because I couldn't breathe, but what scared me more was the panic in my mom's voice as she shouted for me to breathe. I also remember that even though I had no air, I had to breathe out before I could breathe in again. Very strange feeling.
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    Agent of Doom Unique's Avatar
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    I remember being stunned. I wanted to make sure all my parts worked before I got up. Before I moved.

    I fell out of a tree flat on my back when the rope broke.
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  13. #13
    practical experience, FTW Fenika's Avatar
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    Stunned for me too. I flipped over a horse and nearly landed flat on my back... but instead I whiplashed onto my back (maybe my head too, but I typically tuck my chin instinctively). I lay there a minute, wondering if I was okay, and when I did try to move it was hard to breathe. Had to wait a minute or two to get up too. The sore hip didn't register for another few minutes...


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