Tag Archives: concussion

Q&A: Unarmed Knockout

Is there any relatively safe way to knock someone out with no resources but your hands? My character needs to knock this person out so they don’t run off, but he has nothing on him to do so. It’s necessary to the story that he be knocked out. Thank you!

No.

We’ve gone over this, many times, before. There is no safe way to knock someone unconscious. By definition, you’re specifically attempting to damage their brain, with the goal of getting it to take a little vacation.

More than that, there aren’t even many reliable means to knock someone out. Blows to the head can, theoretically, work, but they can also, just as easily, piss off the person you’re attacking, without much ill effect.

Tranquilizers take ages to kick in, and are very difficult to dose. Too much, and you’ve got a corpse. Not enough, and you’ve got someone who’s groggy, but still ambulatory.

Choking is, in theory, the safest, but the fine line between unconscious and dead is still something you can’t spot intentionally. Choking is something that can be practiced in a safe environment, but using it in the field is incredibly finicky.

And, it gets better.

Strip away all the terminology and a concussion is just bruising on the brain itself. You get hit, your head gets jostled around, and your brain bounces off the inside of your skull. You may have been using that organ for something, and might understand why you don’t particularly want it getting directly injured. Either way, this will, absolutely, interfere with your ability to think, remember unimportant information like your name, or count the number of fingers some well meaning smartass is holding up. Still, probably won’t knock you out, though.

When you’re talking about knocking someone out, you’re really asking, “how can I directly assault their brain, without having to develop psychic powers?” Yeah, that’s never going to be safe. It turns out, getting the human brain to stop working, temporarily, is a lot like trying to get it to just flat out stop working in general, and it’s a crap shoot, which you’ll get.

Concussions are cumulative. This should be fairly obvious, when you actually think about it. If your brain has been pre-tenderized, it’s going to be more susceptible to future concussions, and the ones you receive will be more severe. This means someone who’s had a few before will be knocked unconscious or killed far more easily than someone with a relatively healthy brain. Even then, it’s not like there’s a stable baseline of, “you can hit your head this hard before it kills you.”

Knocking someone unconscious for more than a few seconds is very bad news. If you’re knocking someone out for more than a minute, there’s going to be irreparable brain damage. (The specific threshold is usually around 30 seconds, but for each unique brain, there’s equally unique catastrophic brain damage.) So, you’ve, “safely,” reduced someone to a vegetable. More than a few minutes and you’ve (probably), “safely,” killed them.

So, what do you actually do when you need to be somewhere else and someone is intent on getting you to stick around? Knock them off balance and run. Sucker punches to the stomach are a good option. If unexpected, they’ll usually wind the victim, and give you a good head start. Knees to the gut are another classic. One common variation is to knee the gut, and when they double over, knee them again in the face. Slamming a door in the face, or knocking them to the ground are also excellent options. Really, there are a lot of options. The goal is to simply create an opening and escape. You don’t need to knock someone unconscious to do that. You really don’t want to knock someone unconscious to do that.

-Starke

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So head injuries ‘stack’, yes? Is that only for serious ones? Let’s say my character gets clocked over the head not hard enough to give him a concussion but still hard enough that he’s pretty uncomfortable, and then, say, an hour later he gets clocked over the head again? What happens?

It would hurt like hell.

Concussions are cumulative. That is to say, the brain gets bounced around and is injured in the process. Those get considerably more dangerous as they pile on. So a second concussion is going to be much more dangerous.

To be fair, all injuries are cumulative. It’s not something we frequently focus on, because the actual immediate danger doesn’t ramp up as much, but it is still there. Getting tagged in a bruise will hurt more than taking a blow to uninjured tissue. Generally it’s not significantly more life threatening, but continue abusing injured tissue, and things will get worse.

Strictly speaking if you suffer blow to the head and end up with a bruise there, then take another blow and end up with a concussion, the injuries are actually unrelated. They don’t stack together. They are different injuries. One is a ruptured bloodvessel in your scalp, leaking internally. The other is damage to your brain.

The unusual issue with concussions is the human brain; it’s not great at healing. It will heal over time, but in comparison to the rest of your body, it takes much longer. So concussions stack together the way they do, because the injuries linger.

So, yes, injuries do stack together. But, as we’ve said before; blows to the head do not equal concussions. Taking a blow to the head that doesn’t result in a concussion doesn’t increase the risk of receiving a concussion, the way suffering a concussion does.

-Starke

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if i’ll hit someone with something heavy in head in order to make them unconscious (nevermind if i succed or not) is there a possibility to make them some damage to brain? and what exactly would happen?

Well, by definition you’re trying to inflict brain damage. Knocking someone out through blunt force is a concussion. The entire point is to damage the brain enough to get it to say, “nope, I need a break now.”

That is assuming you don’t outright kill them. The difference between hitting someone hard enough to annoy them, hard enough to knock them unconscious for a few seconds is… actually, no, there isn’t a difference on your end. It’s all in how their brain and skull decide to interact with one another.

-Starke

EDIT: There’s also this post from last year.

Realistically, say a character was knocked unconscious for around ten seconds or so, would they be able to get up and get back to whatever they were doing (like: running, fighting, etc.) and also what would they be feeling when they woke up? Basically if my character is knocked out and wakes up, can my other characters pull him along until they’re out of harms way or would he be too fucked up to move?

I’d go with too fucked up to move. Remember, getting knocked out, even for a few seconds, is still a very serious concussion, and by extension a life threatening injury.

Off the top of my head, the symptoms should be: nausea, vertigo, (I think) blurred vision, and difficulty tracking (so, carrying on a conversation is also out).

This is actually what that “how many fingers am I holding up?” cliche is based on, it’s one way to judge if someone’s suffered a concussion, another is looking at pupil dilatation (by shining a light in their eye).

It’s also worth pointing out, because concussions are cumulative over time, these symptoms will actually get worse, and characters can’t learn to power through them. If your character’s getting clocked over the head repeatedly, they’ll end up dying from a blow to the head fairly quickly.

As a quick aside, there isn’t a safe way to render someone unconscious. I’ve been assuming a blow to the head, but tranquilizers require very specific doses (which vary based on weight and metabolism), and if you misjudge it even slightly, you can end up having no real effect, or outright killing the character you’re trying to tranq.

-Starke

kickassfanfic said: You say ‘cumulative over time’ – is that indefinitely? Like if you haven’t been concussed in, say, two years, or TEN years, I dunno, and you get whonked upside the head again, is it just as bad as if your first whonk was the day before?

Not completely. Here’s the thing, when you suffer a concussion, what happens is your brain gets bounced off the inside of your skull. This results in bruising on the brain itself.

Someone who’s suffered a concussion is at substantially greater risk of suffering another, and any concussion they suffer will be more dangerous to them. This diminishes over time, but it never goes away fully. In other words, no, your brain never fully heals.

I’m sorry, I am oversimplifying things here. This is a really complex topic, and I’m not a doctor; but, from a writing standpoint? Yes. If your character is getting knocked unconscious, it will always be worse than the last time, regardless of if it was yesterday, or twenty years ago. If your character is getting clocked on the back of the head more than once or twice, they’re going to die.

-Starke

What do you know about people being knocked out? How much force, how much damage, how quick can you recover?

Being knocked out is by definition brain damage, it’s a concussion serious enough to have caused the brain to essentially take a vacation. I think the limit is about two minutes for a head strike, if your character is down longer than that, then they’re dead.

The best part is that this doesn’t actually require a lot of force. The brain is basically four pounds of warm butter suspended in fluid, it doesn’t take much knocking about before it decides it wants to be elsewhere.

This is why even high school level football claims casualties from time to time and that’s with protective gear.

-Starke