Tuesday, April 23, 2013

The Dynamics of 'Taking a Hit'

By John Nevins

When a large, heavy bullet (like the Civil War era minié ball) hits the head, spine or lower skeletal structures, human beings quite obviously crumple to the ground. However, when shot in other locations in the torso or even limbs, people quite often lose leg function and fall to the ground immediately (within a couple of seconds). When this occurs, they may be unconscious, conscious, or initially unconscious--returning to consciousness in a few seconds.

The Permanent Crush Cavity (PCC) is the area or amount of tissue actually touched, crushed or pulped by the bullet. The severing of blood vessels and rupture of hollow viscera (major organs such as the liver, pancreas, etc.) induces neural shock and loss of motor control from damage to the nervous system. The PCC is enhanced when the bullet strikes bone, splintering it and sending these fragments through the body as secondary missiles. The PCC has a direct impact on the vestibulospinal tract causing collapse. This is the primary wound and incapacitation predictor where heavy, slow moving projectiles are concerned.

No doubt about it, a minié ball is a big, hard-hitting slug Nevertheless, being hit by one produces no more push than say a ten-pound weight being dropped about two inches. The impact will not push you backwards unless you were already off balance.

You might spin around to some degree if hit in the shoulder where bone and muscle is being struck and most of the bullet's energy (force) is being expended in you, rather than passing on out the other side. Yet most, if not all of that "spin" would likely be a reactionary move by you to the blunt force trauma you are receiving rather than the bullet actually causing you to spin.

Excerpted from: "The Dynamics of Taking a Hit" reprinted from The Civil War Courier in
The Journal of Civil War Medicine, Vol. 7, No. 2

Learn more about Civil War wounds at www.CivilWarRx.com.


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