A Friendly Little Stabbing

So we know that there’s no 100% non-fatal or “safe” place in/on the body to shoot someone. (That one scene in the first Divergent book where Tris shoots someone in the shoulder to get him to reveal information without killing him makes me cringe every time) What about stabbing? Where is the “least fatal” place to be stabbed, if there is any at all?

Very lightly.

Okay, so, deep penetration has a very high likelihood of hitting something you need to continue functioning. Again, getting stabbed in the torso is worse than the limbs, though this does depend on exactly what gets cut.

Your bones are slightly better at handling an object trying to impale you than stopping bullets, which isn’t saying much, but it can stop a light blade if you’re lucky.

Cuts to the limbs are less likely to be life threatening, and your arteries are somewhat better shielded against slicing and cutting trauma. That said, if someone drives a knife into your inner thigh, you’re (probably) already dead.

The rule of thumb I was introduced to is, “three inches,” if the strike goes deeper than that, it’s probably going to hit something vital. Also, it occurs to me, that does nicely cover most places where you’re not likely to suffer a vital hit. For example, you can get stabbed through the hand with minimal risk to your life (though, you are going to lose the use of that hand, at least, until it heals.)

That’s a larger problem you should remember. The muscles on your body are not (as a general rule) vital to your continued breathing, however, they are necessary to move and function. So, if you get a deep gash on your upper arm, it won’t kill you, but it will impair or weaken some direction of movement as those muscles are responsible for controlling your limb.

The real danger with stabbing is (usually) blood loss, and the further the injury is from your core, the lower the risk of bleeding out. Again, taking a hit to an artery will end you, and this can even happen on your wrists (though the bleedout will generally take longer, as the volume loss per second will be lower.) The nature of the cut matters, because in some cases it’s relatively easy to staunch the blood flow. As with gunshot wounds, the lethality of a given injury isn’t really about how “lethal,” it is, it’s more about how quickly you’ll lose blood.

There is an interesting caveat with getting stabbed or impaled: Do not remove the intruding object unless you absolutely have to. If someone gets stabbed do not pull the knife out. In some situations, the blade (or other object) will be preventing further blood loss, and pulling it out can be fatal. I’ve been told this is especially true of situations where someone’s been run through with rebar, to the point that it’s actually better to cut away the rebar if possible and bring it along, as the texture is exceptionally good at digging into the wound and limiting bleeding. (Obviously, cutting rebar for transport to a hospital is going to require construction or other lifesaving equipment, and not exactly a do-it-yourself solution.) The result of this caveat is, you can take a knife to the chest without dying, so long as the knife stays where it landed.

As with getting shot, there isn’t a great place to get stabbed, but it can be survivable if you can get medical attention before the blood loss is fatal.


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