PDA

View Full Version : Broken necks



Thomas_Anderson
07-28-2009, 10:35 AM
How fast does it kill and how does it kill you? I know you're pretty much paralyzed instantly, but how long would the victim actually be conscious?

I have two characters that break their necks. One by a fall (ground level, but she was a full run, so she toppled over quite a bit), and another by the protagonist snapping the neck in a combat situation. It's set in the future where people can be revived by most injuries, but once they're dead, that's pretty much it. I need the former to survive, and given it wasn't a long fall, I thinkI can pull that off believably.

It'd be very convenient if the latter stayed down though. I wanted to know if it's believable that the former had some life left, but the latter didn't. Medically speaking, would it make a difference that the latter got his neck broken nearly all the way around in a fight?

Canotila
07-28-2009, 11:09 AM
How fast does it kill and how does it kill you? I know you're pretty much paralyzed instantly, but how long would the victim actually be conscious?

I have two characters that break their necks. One by a fall (ground level, but she was a full run, so she toppled over quite a bit), and another by the protagonist snapping the neck in a combat situation. It's set in the future where people can be revived by most injuries, but once they're dead, that's pretty much it. I need the former to survive, and given it wasn't a long fall, I think I can pull that off believably.

It'd be very convenient if the latter stayed down though. I wanted to know if it's believable that the former had some life left, but the latter didn't. Medically speaking, would it make a difference that the latter got his neck broken nearly all the way around in a fight?

Weird, I just posted in another thread about breaking my neck.

When I broke my neck it was in a car accident. Basically, a whiplash injury that caused the top two vertebrae in my neck to slam into each other and fracture.

I drove away from that. At first I felt jittery but fine, then 20 minutes later excruciating pain set in and I felt like my head was about to fall off. I couldn't look left or right, so moving around had to be done hunched shoulders gorilla style.

It took 2 weeks for the doctors to realize it was broken. All that time I was walking around with a broken neck, and it didn't kill or paralyze me. So yes, your MC can definitely survive a broken neck.

When I was 10 I fell 30 feet out of a tree house and fractured my hip and mid spine. I also walked away from that and didn't receive any medical treatment for about a week. The back fracture was pretty typical of a fall. The spinous process was broken, which is the part that juts out like a whale fin. Not very serious, and easily survivable. If she landed on her head and actually broke the neck, as in damaged the spinal cord then that is way more serious and life threatening. Still survivable, but I doubt she could walk away from it without amazing healing technology.

Okay, I just re-read the part where you said she broke her neck running. Our necks are extremely flexible, and I really doubt a person could get enough momentum going to break their neck running unless they slam into something solid (a boulder maybe), or something moving in their direction slams into them, or they are tumbling downhill and gaining enough momentum for the break.

Medically speaking, it makes a huge difference if the neck is broken in a fight like you described. That would damage the spinal cord, at the least paralyzing him. If she is pulling a neck maneuver, the is also the potential for suffocation, pinching off arteries, or severing arteries.

jclarkdawe
07-28-2009, 04:19 PM
You might want to look at Suicide via hanging - open casket?? (http://www.absolutewrite.com/forums/showthread.php?t=141544&highlight=clark-dawe+neck) and Death Scene - any medical experts here? (http://www.absolutewrite.com/forums/showthread.php?t=134316&highlight=clark-dawe+neck)

Basically, it's how high up the neck the injury is. C-1 through C-3 and it's probably fatal. C-5 through C-7 and it's probably not fatal, although you're going to be in pain and not able to move.

Wringing a neck is something any farmer or hunter used to know, and is taught at least at the upper levels of the military.

Your scenario is fine, just understand how neck injuries occur.

Best of luck,

Jim Clark-Dawe

Forbidden Snowflake
07-28-2009, 04:54 PM
It's also a difference if the neck is broken or if vertebraes are fractured.

If the bones severe the spinal cord then that's a fully broken neck with no chance whatsoever.

If only the bones are broken and not moved, then you can head out fine.

The higher up the less good are your changes.

Romantic Heretic
07-28-2009, 05:14 PM
If it doesn't sever the spinal cord it's not likely to be fatal, if you stay still. The more you move the more likely that the fractured vertebrae will damage or sever the spinal cord.

The best bet for a quick kill is to reproduce the effect a 'proper hanging' produces; drive the atlas joint at the top of the neck through the spinal cord. The body from the neck down is paralyzed. Then the person dies because the heart is no longer pumping and the brain suffocates. Say thirty seconds to unconsciousness, about three minutes to death. It's not pleasant watching the person try to speak, and then scream as they see death approaching.

It takes a fair bit of strength and skill to break a persons neck. Better is a sharp knife at the base of the skull.