A Staff Report from the Straight Dope Science Advisory Board

What happens when the wind gets knocked out of you?

Dear Straight Dope:

What actually happens when you get the wind knocked out of you? Has anyone ever failed to get their wind back?

From studying martial arts, one learns where certain vital areas are located on the body. One of these spots is the solar plexus, located just below the center of the ribcage. A strike to this area causes the diaphram, which is the muscle that controls lung inflation and deflation, to spasm. In this state, one is unable to take a breath until the diaphram returns to normal. So, when you get whacked here, you can't breathe. Dang bullies.

As to whether anyone has ever failed to get their wind back ... guess it depends how you mean. Common belief is that a hard enough blow to the solar plexus can kill you, and at a certain level of analysis this is undoubtedly true. It's called "getting shot." One might object that there's a difference between getting the wind knocked out of you and getting blown away, but let's not quibble. If enough energy is put into the blow, you won't get your wind back.

SDSTAFF Dogster and

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Staff Reports are written by the Straight Dope Science Advisory Board, Cecil's online auxiliary. Though the SDSAB does its best, these columns are edited by Ed Zotti, not Cecil, so accuracywise you'd better keep your fingers crossed.

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