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#1
Old 12-10-2009, 12:56 AM
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On a human, does neck snap = instant death?

In action movies, whenever the hero and his posse are trying to infiltrate the bad guys' lair, they'll often try to get rid of various guards and henchmen by performing silent kills. The cliched way to do this is to sneak up on the bad guy and snap his neck. It is shown that the neck snap is instantly incapacitating. But is the neck snap lethal in itself, or does it result in below-the-neck paralysis that eventually leads to suffocation, as the diaphragm is no longer receiving impulses from the brain?
#2
Old 12-10-2009, 01:34 AM
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The "Lethal Neck Snap" is a modern fictional convention akin to the "Knockout Karate Chop to the Base of the Neck" that was in vogue in the '60s and '70s.

A broken neck is potentially quite dangerous, for the reason you give, but not necessarily instantaneous, and certainly not able to be inflicted reliably in the fashion it's usually shown. A windpipe-crushing choke hold is probably the real world equivalent for unarmed stealthy lethal attack, though it's much slower in its effects, and the victim has more opportunity to struggle. Real Special Ops forces are more likely to use knives, garrotes, or silenced firearms for the purpose.
#3
Old 12-10-2009, 02:29 AM
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If your neck in broken around the level of C2 or C1 in laymens terms it will damage the area that controls your breathing and heart rate. What happens is you stop breathing immediately and die shortly after.
#4
Old 12-10-2009, 02:39 AM
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On a real world note I treated a man with a broken neck from a car accident at the level C6. He was incapacitated and his breathing was severely compromised. His skin color was ashen (bad) and his belly looked like a giant blob moving awkwardly with little chest movement. If left alone how he was he probably would of died with in twenty minutes from respiratory failure. He could no longer breathe effectively on his own.

So to answer your question yes a neck snap is lethal and the area around C2 potentially will cause "instant" death pretty much.

Last edited by ajb867; 12-10-2009 at 02:40 AM.
#5
Old 12-10-2009, 02:57 AM
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Whoops, too early in the morning.

I didn't really answer what you were looking for. The movie based move would probably not be reliable as pointed out. However, I would never take the chance to actually find out :P
Car crashes the most frequent cause of this type of death inflicts an extreme amount of force in the area that will cause "instant / rapid death".

The chokehold is incredible I have actually been victim to this once and I was unconscious in about 8 seconds. My only reaction was to grab the arms around my neck which did not work. I woke up in a state of complete panic. Last time I'll ever volunteer for something "cool" at a party standing next to MMA fighter.
#6
Old 12-10-2009, 03:51 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by ajb867 View Post
If your neck in broken around the level of C2 or C1 in laymens terms it will damage the area that controls your breathing and heart rate. What happens is you stop breathing immediately and die shortly after.
Good luck snapping someone's c2 or c1 with your hands. Especially with Hollywood technique, where they just sort of grab them by the chin and yank backward.
#7
Old 12-10-2009, 03:55 AM
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Originally Posted by ajb867 View Post
The chokehold is incredible I have actually been victim to this once and I was unconscious in about 8 seconds. My only reaction was to grab the arms around my neck which did not work. I woke up in a state of complete panic. Last time I'll ever volunteer for something "cool" at a party standing next to MMA fighter.
It's important to point out you almost certainly weren't "choked" into unconsciousness in 8 seconds. What probably happened was there was enough pressure on the major arteries leading to the brain that it interrupted blood flow. I'm not sure I've seen anything like that in Hollywood.
#8
Old 12-10-2009, 05:11 AM
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I'm well aware of what happened. Sadly the "pressure on the arteries which causes a lack of oxygenated blood to reach the brain causing a rapid loss of mentation followed by unconsciousness hold" never caught on.


Last edited by ajb867; 12-10-2009 at 05:12 AM.
#9
Old 12-10-2009, 05:16 AM
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Originally Posted by Mosier View Post
Good luck snapping someone's c2 or c1 with your hands. Especially with Hollywood technique, where they just sort of grab them by the chin and yank backward.
I always saw the grab and turn past the shoulders to one side. This is probably beyond the normal person's reach in terms of strength though. Those capable of doing it probably wouldn't be too stealthy either.
#10
Old 12-10-2009, 05:57 AM
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Yeah, I'm more interested in the grab where you grab the guy's head and turn it one way (left/right) and then turn the body/shoulders the other way - basically try to twist the head around 180 degrees. Would this actually kill a guy, and is within the realm of human strength?
#11
Old 12-10-2009, 06:29 AM
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Originally Posted by magnusblitz View Post
Would this actually kill a guy,...
It would break his neck and render him unconscious and incapacitated. Whether it kills him depends on exactly where the break occurs.

Quote:
and is within the realm of human strength?
Theoretically, yes. On a real, struggling human being, you'd have to be very strong and very lucky. And if you're that strong, punching the person on the back of the head would be more certain.
#12
Old 12-10-2009, 09:10 AM
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I would bet this is on border of "possible". If a person were very, very strong, the other person had a particularly weak or congenitally compromised spine, and the attack was totally unexpected so that the breakee had no chance to tense the muscles of the neck, maybe. But routinely? I don't think so.

If you do happen across someone who could bring it off, I would make some effort to remain in his good graces.

If I wanted to incapacitate someone instantly from behind, I would do the sleeper hold found in judo and ju-jitsu, choke the fellow out, and then kill him with a strike to the trachea once he was unconscious.

Regards,
Shodan
#13
Old 12-10-2009, 09:53 AM
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I assume Mythbusters hasn't tackled this one yet.

Adam: Uh-oh! That'll never make it to television...
#14
Old 12-10-2009, 11:15 AM
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Originally Posted by ajb867 View Post
...Last time I'll ever volunteer for something "cool" at a party standing next to MMA fighter.
Note to self: Never, ever shoplift from the Museum of Modern Art's gift shop.
#15
Old 12-10-2009, 11:17 AM
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Is'nt this the aim of a long drop hanging?
#16
Old 12-10-2009, 11:31 AM
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Originally Posted by Shodan View Post
If I wanted to incapacitate someone instantly from behind, I would do the sleeper hold found in judo and ju-jitsu, choke the fellow out, and then kill him with a strike to the trachea once he was unconscious.
Anyone else hear this in the voice of Dwight Shrute?
#17
Old 12-10-2009, 12:36 PM
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And if you're going to try this on someone, just use a knife. I mean, if you want to kill someone quickly, have the drop on them, and for whatever reason don't want to use a gun, the knife is much better instrument than any hand-to-hand technique.
#18
Old 12-10-2009, 12:42 PM
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Another thread on the subject:
http://boards.academicpursuits.us/sdmb/...d.php?t=238611
#19
Old 12-10-2009, 12:57 PM
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I'm glad this is not one of those 'need answer fast' questions
#20
Old 12-10-2009, 12:58 PM
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I hear the thing to do is to cover their mouth and stab into the side of the neck and tear out through the trachea and major arteries. Instant unconsciousness results followed by quick death. Never tried it myself.

I can say that after butchering a few animals, it is amazing how tough some of that connective tissue is.
#21
Old 12-10-2009, 03:55 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by sweeteviljesus View Post
I hear the thing to do is to cover their mouth and stab into the side of the neck and tear out through the trachea and major arteries. Instant unconsciousness results followed by quick death. Never tried it myself.

I can say that after butchering a few animals, it is amazing how tough some of that connective tissue is.
This would be an incredibly messy way of killing someone (and yes, the neck is full of muscles and connective tissues which are hard to cut through; hence why the executioner of old used a heavy, wide-bladed axe or scimitar). The best way to kill someone from behind would be a knife into the back of the head, blade horizontal to slide between cervical vertebrae. A shot to the side of the neck or temple is not reliable, and cutting the trachea is (reportedly) very noisy. Intrusion into the kidney is supposed to be paralyzingly painful, and will result in rapid death if the renal artery is severed. The heart is an unreliable target from the rear.

The whole neck snap thing is pure Hollywoodism; the neck is one of the most flexible joints in the body (only the shoulder has more pure rotation) and unless you were very fast, or could hold the body rigid while twisting the head, there is isn't any way you could sever the spinal cord reliably. Basically, the victim would have to be sitting strapped into a chair and you'd have to be Lou Ferrigno to pull this off. As Blake says, if you have this kind of strength, a blow to the rear of the head or neck is likely to be more effective.

Stranger
#22
Old 12-10-2009, 04:04 PM
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Well, I know this isn't exactly the question, but there are different kinds of "broken necks." A friend of mine had a surfing accident and "broke her neck." She did hear a snap, but she walked away (not knowing how serious it was) and went to the doctor the next day. Needless to say, her spinal cord was not severed as the movies or the media will suggest always happens with a broken neck.

I would think the easiest and best way to render someone dead (ie. unconscious) from behind is to put pressure on the vagus nerve. Of course, getting into a position in which you can perform this feat against an enemy is another question.

Last edited by dragoncat; 12-10-2009 at 04:04 PM. Reason: Clarity
#23
Old 12-10-2009, 04:07 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Simplicio View Post
Anyone else hear this in the voice of Dwight Shrute?
Yes.
#24
Old 12-10-2009, 04:21 PM
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I went on a date with the Bobble Head Girl! That was her nickname. She and her then-boyfriend were vacationing in Australia and they got in a serious, single-car accident. After waiting and waiting, and waiting, her boyfriend decided to wander off into the wilderness (looking for some help in the form of wallabies or something), whereas she refused to go and get lost, and stayed put by the side of the road. She got picked up by a trucker and was able to get help.

She was driven to the nearest town, she talked to the police and did all sorts of police related stuff to help them find the car and her wayward boyfriend, and only sought medical help hours later. Turns out, her neck was broken! Hence she was nicknamed Bobble Head. So broken neck does not always mean instant death.

When you hang someone, that's actually an orthopedic decapitation (aka "internal decapitation") and that is almost always fatal. Although I remember there was some little boy in the news last year who survived one.

Last edited by Swallowed My Cellphone; 12-10-2009 at 04:23 PM.
#25
Old 12-10-2009, 06:54 PM
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(I basically repeated what the previous poster said, so I deleted it.)

I've x-rayed several people who have made their own way to the Emergency Room who were then found to have broken vertebrae. Nothing at C-1 or C-2 that I remember, though.

Last edited by Rysdad; 12-10-2009 at 06:56 PM.
#26
Old 12-10-2009, 07:22 PM
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My chiropractor does this to me all the time and it just feels good.
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#27
Old 12-10-2009, 10:42 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Simplicio View Post
Anyone else hear this in the voice of Dwight Shrute?
Nah, not from Shodan. We disagree profoundly on pretty much any political topic you care to name, but on martial arts in general and Judo in particular he's completely solid.
#28
Old 12-10-2009, 11:24 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Blake View Post
It would break his neck and render him unconscious and incapacitated. Whether it kills him depends on exactly where the break occurs.



Theoretically, yes. On a real, struggling human being, you'd have to be very strong and very lucky. And if you're that strong, punching the person on the back of the head would be more certain.
So... still okay for fantasy/sci-fi, then?
#29
Old 12-10-2009, 11:33 PM
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Originally Posted by Umbriel2 View Post
A windpipe-crushing choke hold is probably the real world equivalent for unarmed stealthy lethal attack, though it's much slower in its effects, and the victim has more opportunity to struggle.
My dad once told me that it takes 20 seconds to render someone unconscious that way. (ISTM that 20 seconds is a very long time when you're in a life-and-death situation.) True, or not?
#30
Old 12-10-2009, 11:57 PM
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Originally Posted by Johnny L.A. View Post
My dad once told me that it takes 20 seconds to render someone unconscious that way. (ISTM that 20 seconds is a very long time when you're in a life-and-death situation.) True, or not?
Not true. If you look around You Tube you can find videos of this. If your opponent isn't out within 10 seconds you are doing it wrong. If you're doing it right the eyes start rolling back in under 3 seconds and they're out cold within 7 or 8 seconds.

Of course 7 seconds is still a long time in a life-and-death situation, which is why I would prefer something a little more crude like blow to the the base of the skull.
#31
Old 12-11-2009, 12:08 AM
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Originally Posted by x-ray vision View Post
Wow, almost the same question. I did do a search beforehand, I promise.

Thanks to everyone for the interesting replies. The motivation for it was kind of weird. I was watching some movie the other day when this maneuver was performed and I thought to myself, for the first time, "Gosh, I hope that bad guy isn't suffering after that neck snap." Yes, I get weird thoughts when I watch movies
#32
Old 12-11-2009, 05:21 PM
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Originally Posted by Stranger On A Train View Post
This would be an incredibly messy way of killing someone (and yes, the neck is full of muscles and connective tissues which are hard to cut through; hence why the executioner of old used a heavy, wide-bladed axe or scimitar). The best way to kill someone from behind would be a knife into the back of the head, blade horizontal to slide between cervical vertebrae. A shot to the side of the neck or temple is not reliable, and cutting the trachea is (reportedly) very noisy. Intrusion into the kidney is supposed to be paralyzingly painful, and will result in rapid death if the renal artery is severed. The heart is an unreliable target from the rear.
Clearly, experimental observation is called for in the interests of science.

While I will buy that it would be messy (on top of arterial spray, I heard that the victim will often vomit through the slit), I can't believe that it would be especially difficult to perform with a sufficiently sharp knife, nor that it would be more difficult than inserting between vertebrae.

Are there any good ways of killing a man with your bare hands quickly and quietly?
#33
Old 12-11-2009, 05:35 PM
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Originally Posted by Shodan View Post
I would bet this is on border of "possible". If a person were very, very strong, the other person had a particularly weak or congenitally compromised spine, and the attack was totally unexpected so that the breakee had no chance to tense the muscles of the neck, maybe. But routinely? I don't think so.

If you do happen across someone who could bring it off, I would make some effort to remain in his good graces.

If I wanted to incapacitate someone instantly from behind, I would do the sleeper hold found in judo and ju-jitsu, choke the fellow out, and then kill him with a strike to the trachea once he was unconscious.

Regards,
Shodan
Would this hold kill a person if it is maintained after the victim passes out?
#34
Old 12-11-2009, 06:14 PM
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You can be internally decapitated and live, so even that isn't a 100% death sentence!

Quote:
internal decapitation. "I read the CT scan, and it was depressing," Bhatia says. "Ninety-five percent of people with internal decapitation die immediately or within a day or two. Of the other five percent, most are either quadriplegic or on a ventilator the rest of their lives."
http://sportsillustrated.cnn.com/vau...28/1/index.htm
#35
Old 12-11-2009, 06:34 PM
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Originally Posted by Malthus View Post
Would this hold kill a person if it is maintained after the victim passes out?
It works by restricting blood flow from the carotid artery to the brain, so eventually, yup.
#36
Old 12-11-2009, 06:49 PM
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Originally Posted by sweeteviljesus View Post
Are there any good ways of killing a man with your bare hands quickly and quietly?
The aforementioned rear naked choke will kill someone eventually, but probably not as quickly as you're hoping. A guillotine choke can kill by crushing the trachea (news story), and a neck crank can eventually break the neck, but again, probably not quickly and quietly.

Lt. Col Dave Grossman says in his book On Killing that the proper method of dispatching someone sliently from behind is with a knife into the kidney - apparently the shock and pain makes it impossible to scream. This is an area in which I admit I have little personal knowledge.
#37
Old 12-11-2009, 06:52 PM
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Originally Posted by pravnik View Post
It works by restricting blood flow from the carotid artery to the brain, so eventually, yup.
There was a case about 2 years ago where a mixed martial artist killed his ex-girlfriend's new boyfriend by putting on a choke hold and holding it until the boyfriend died (people I knew peripherally were required to give testimony at the trial). So to answer your question, yes (although apparently it took a couple of minutes of choking after the guy went unconscious).

Also, even though it takes 8 seconds to go unconscious, you start losing strength and focus (i.e., you stop forgetting to fight the choke, and start thinking about bunnies) almost immediately. Very effective hold.
#39
Old 12-11-2009, 06:57 PM
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Originally Posted by sweeteviljesus View Post

Are there any good ways of killing a man with your bare hands quickly and quietly?
If you want quick & quiet & bare hands, the choke (specifically the rear naked choke) is your best bet.

Pravnik mentioned the guillotine (as an aside--holds that put pressure on the larynx are called strangles, holds that put pressure on the arteries are called chokes), but the chance of crushing the larynx is pretty small, athough police did manage to do it on a semi-regular basis, which is why choke holds were banned by most police departments.
#40
Old 12-13-2009, 02:10 AM
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This would have been in the late 1990's . . . I read about it in the newspaper and at the time the only access I had to newspapers would have been an Army newspaper. In Korea, a female Korean barber accidentally killed a GI after giving him a haircut by twisting his head.

Korean barbers often give shoulder massages and head twists (to get out the kinks) after a haircut. This one ended badly. Sorry, no cite.
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