Why a Punch to the Liver is Deadly

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The liver is one of the most important organs in the body. This 3-pound reddish-brown organ is responsible for the filtration of the blood from your digestive tract. The liver is also responsible for the processing of drugs as well as the removal of toxins in the body. Certainly, this organ is one of the reasons your body is still active and full of vitality at this moment. But one amazing fact is that the liver is also one of the few organs in the body that could send anyone in pain if the organ has been punched.


The Liver (Photo Credits: SEBASTIAN KAULITZKI via  ThoughtCo.)

Have you ever watched a boxing matched before? For instance, Manny Pacquiao’s famous matched with Floyd Mayweather? If you have, then you’ve probably watched some of the boxers being punched on their right side of their belly ended up on the floor clearly in pain. In some worse cases, these boxers are incapacitated. To get a clearer picture watch the video below.     

What are the Effects of a Punch on the Liver?

The liver – the body’s largest and the heaviest internal organ – is located in the upper right of the abdomen. People normally wouldn’t feel this organ since it is protected by the lower right ribs. And this organ is often targeted in fights between wrestlers, boxers, kickboxers, and similar profession. These people know that a punch or a kick could send their opponent in agonizing pain. But how does it really feel to be punched in the liver?

Liver Shot (Video Credits: Jahaziel Flores via Youtube)

If you have not experienced a punch to the liver, then don’t even try. Apart from the pain coming from your fists (or other parts of the body in some cases), the victim of the punched will have a difficulty in breathing and will be feeling exhausted enough for your legs to feel weak; these are also one of the reasons why you’ll probably see people punched on the liver on the floor. And in some cases, if the punch is really that severe, the victim might also faint. And it’s not about how tough you are or how well could you endure the pain. No human could deal with a blow to the liver.

What Causes the Agonizing Pain?

You might wonder how a blow to the liver can give a greater pain compared to a blow to the head. We’ve seen many professional boxers take punches in the head like it was nothing but a punch on the liver sent them down. The truth is, the pain is almost the same. The difference, however, is how fast the body processes the pain.


Punch to the Head (Photo Credits: Hermes Rivera via Unsplash)

A blow to the head leaves a person disoriented which clearly affects his brain. This means that his brain does not process the pain at the moment but will in a few seconds or minutes. A blow to the liver, on the other hand, gives a person indescribable pain since his head is clear. This is the main reason why you’ll probably find these boxers crouching in pain and agony from a punch on the liver rather than on the head.

What Punch is considered Deadly?

We probably have asked ourselves if all punches in the liver could be considered deadly. According to a research conducted by Shao et al, the results could be summarized as follows.

“Overall, the results showed that liver rupture was primarily caused by a direct strike of the ribs induced by blunt impact to the abdomen. Among the three impact directions, a lateral impact was most likely to cause liver injury with a minimum punch speed of 5 m/s (the momentum was about 2.447 kg.m/s).”

Credits:  Shao Y, Zou D, Li Z, Wan L, Qin Z, Liu N et al. (2013) Blunt Liver Injury with Intact Ribs under Impacts on the Abdomen: A Biomechanical Investigation. PLoS ONE 8(1): e52366.doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0052366

In other words, a direct punch with a speed of at least 5 m/s to the liver could easily cause a liver injury to the victim. To put this to a perspective, a healthy male adult can deliver a punch with a speed of 6 m/s while professional boxers could punch twice the speed of a healthy male adult. This means any adult male could easily pull off the stunt of a liver damage.   

What Causes the Paralysis after the Pain?

Most people, and even you would probably notice how victims of liver-shot are unable to move temporarily. And you might think that this sudden paralysis has been caused obviously by the blow on the liver. Well, you’re partially correct. But the pain from the blow is not entirely the reason.

Paralysis after Liver Punch (Video Credits: Gutpunch Painmakers via Youtube)

A punch in the liver creates pressure changes in the organ since the liver is naturally flexible. This means that a compression on the punched side creates a stretch part on the other side. Nerve fibers around the liver which are connected to the autonomic nervous system – one of the two type of nervous system responsible for the involuntary movements in the body such as the beating of the heart and the breathing of the lungs – send signals of the pain around the body. The vagus nerve, the system’s longest nerve, then gets stimulated by the signals. This stimulation would then later cause the paralysis.


The Vagus Nerve (Photo Credits:  Henry Gray (1918) via Wikimedia)

Upon the stimulation of the vagus nerve, blood vessels all over the body except for the brain start to widen. Normally, the heart will beat faster in order to cope up with the change of the speed of the blood. However, the stimulation of the vagus nerve had caused the heart to temporarily beat slower. At this point, blood pressure on the body greatly decreases. But what will happen now to the brain?


Blood Pressure (Photo Credits: rawpixel via Unsplash)

We now that the brain needs a constant supply of nutrient and oxygen to continue functioning. But with the decreased heart rate and the dilation of the blood vessels, the scenario is clearly different. Thus, the body will make the last effort to save this significant organ; the body will try to force itself on a horizontal position. This means of survival is also one of the main reason why victims of a liver-shot are  down the moment the blow hits them.     

Does This Happen Only To the Liver?


Organs of the Human Body (Photo Credits: Mikael Häggström  via Wikipedia)

In the end, we can only ask ourselves if this could only happen to the liver. The answer is no. All organs of the body are affected by this agonizing pain. But what makes the liver so different is that it is the largest internal organ in the body and is also quite vulnerable since a part of it is not protected by the ribcage (unlike other organs such as the kidney and gall bladder which are surrounded by muscles mass and other organs). Still, it is no joke to be punched right into the liver.

About the author


Haruo is a minty-wimpy guy at the corner of the street. He absolutely loves reading light and web novels while patiently waiting for his game to load. He has an eye and time to play with the cutest thing on earth - puppies.

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