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View Full Version : Can a person (or animal) run into a wall hard enough to kill itself?


Renee
12-09-2008, 08:48 AM
So let's say that a regular, healthy man is running as fast as he can, and doesn't see the flat wall straight in front of him. Can he run face first into that wall hard enough to kill himself? I suspect the answer is yes, but I can't imagine doing it, myself. What about other animals? Case studies?

running coach
12-09-2008, 08:54 AM
Pete Reiser (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pete_Reiser) ran into outfield walls regularly, fracturing his skull on one occasion. Didn't kill himself but I can see how it would be possible.

cornflakes
12-09-2008, 08:59 AM
My guess is that it's possible.

A week ago, my son and I were playing football. We blew a handoff and he ran into my shoulder. His eyes fluttered for a few seconds, then he eased himself to the ground and passed out. Later he said that it rang his bell (an old boxing term for a concussion that causes intense stinging pain behind the ear.)

Me? I didn't feel much. It felt like a pretty soft impact to me. I suspect that the damage would have been a lot worse if he ran into a brick wall instead of a soft, movable body.

BwanaBob
12-09-2008, 09:14 AM
Birds do this frequently; flying so hard into a window that they die.

Sadly I've had to bury a couple that hit my living room window. The bang they made when they hit scared the hell out of me.

sailor
12-09-2008, 09:56 AM
I have heard of a panicked horse running straight into a wall at full speed and killing the rider. I suppose the horse did not fare too well either. Horses are stupid animals and some are easily spooked.

Qadgop the Mercotan
12-09-2008, 09:58 AM
I've seen one patient die from this, repeatedly ramming his head against a wall and giving himself a subdural hemorrhage.

Santo Rugger
12-09-2008, 10:15 AM
Horses are stupid animals...No, they're not.

Toxylon
12-09-2008, 10:31 AM
A simple KE calculation: 80 kg moving at roughly 10 m/s = 4000 J, should tell that a head-on collision can easily produce lethal fracturing / lesions in the head-neck area. Of course, if one does not reach out with one's head at the point of impact like a 100 m runner does, much of the energy will be taken up by sundry body parts slamming against the wall.

Tom Tildrum
12-09-2008, 10:33 AM
Gus Frerotte nearly killed his career.

One could hit a wall and break one's nose in such a way as to send shards up into the brain, I imagine.

Wile E
12-09-2008, 10:45 AM
I've seen at least two cases of a dog running headlong into an obstacle and dying. The owners did not want a necropsy so we don't know if they snapped their necks or if it was some other mechanism of death. They were both young dogs running around like crazy and were not otherwise ill. One was a dobe that ran into a wall and another was a smaller dog that ran into the coffee table. We also recently had a small dog, yorkie, that wriggled out of it's young owner's arms and fell on it's head and died. It was only about a 3 to 4 foot drop but it landed just right, or just wrong, and died instantly.

As has already been pointed out, birds often fly into windows and die.

TroubleAgain
12-09-2008, 12:55 PM
You've been watching that "blonde antelope" video, haven't you? :D

Quartz
12-09-2008, 12:57 PM
Make the wall of frangible transparent sugar and placed at the edge of a cliff, and I think you'd have a winner! :D

Tangent
12-09-2008, 01:53 PM
I have heard of a panicked horse running straight into a wall at full speed and killing the rider.

In 1994, Texas Tech's mascot--The Masked Rider--was thrown or fell from her horse as she entered the stadium at a football game. The horse was spooked and bolted down the sideline toward an exit. It apparently slipped headlong into a wall and died instantly.

clayton_e
12-09-2008, 04:38 PM
Depending how you hit it.. yes.

Running full force flat on to the wall would spread the impact across the entire body (I'm simplifying here, of course, it would probably hit whichever shoulder was ahead, a side of the face/neck, a side of the hips.. etc..). Still lots of points of impact.

Running straight at it with your head down? Eh, stupid.. But probably not lethal, I'd think. The human skull is there to protect the brain and it will do so. Concussion? Cracked skull? Nasty head wound? Yeah, probably. Death? Mehhh.. Don't know. I'd give it a maybe.

Now to run straight at a wall chin tucked half way, head tilted to the side and forward (making sure your temple is about the first part of your body to strike said wall)... I think you'd have a decent chance of breaking your neck going at full speed.




Make sure you have someone else there for this test or the police will keep the video and it won't end up on Youtube. (What? I just went through a few minutes of theorizing a how to... I'd like to see if my theories work..)

Tuckerfan
12-09-2008, 05:11 PM
Yes. In 1987 during a state high school championship football game in TN a player thinking that his team had lost the game put his head down and ran into a concrete/cinder block wall. The injuries weren't instantly fatal, but the kid did die within a day or so from those injuries. I do not know if he had removed his helmet or not.

clayton_e
12-09-2008, 06:11 PM
I do not know if he had removed his helmet or not.

I don't know if it was protecting much except for the part of the brain that keeps the vitals going.

Call me cold... But man.. I don't feel all that bad for him.

Stereotypes to follow, but would you predict he'd be a future professor of economics or a drunk redneck you see in the police log for rolling over a truck after picking up their kid from kindergarten?

Renee
12-09-2008, 07:21 PM
You've been watching that "blonde antelope" video, haven't you? :D
I had not heard of it, no, but since you mentioned it, I googled it (http://video.google.com/videoplay?docid=3728266100951844857)and that's pretty funny. :)

Interesting responses, guys, thanks.

Darryl Lict
12-10-2008, 12:25 AM
I think you could probably kill yourself. According to Wikipedia, a world class sprinter can hit 42.5 km/h or 26.4mph or 11.8 meters per second. This is moving pretty fucking fast. This is about the speed of a brisk road bike speed. Running into a brick wall head first could easily kill you.

Somehow, not considering air friction I think:

∆x = (v*v)/g where ∆x is the distance, v = final velocity and g = gravitational constant, we get

∆x = (11.8*11.8)/9.8 = 7.1m = 23 feet

So, I think it's equivalent to falling off close to a 3 story building on your head, which would kill most people.

OK, I'm a bit buzzed, so I'm probably wrong. In any case, running at full speed and the throwing your head into a brick wall, it seems like you could kill yourself.

clayton_e
12-10-2008, 03:36 AM
Good math for being buzzed.


I looked at the issue and said... Eh... I think so.

You pulled out the calculator and, while hitting a 7 instead of an 8 here and there before hitting clear and starting over again... Did better than I would've done sober.

EvilHamsterOnCrack
12-10-2008, 08:56 AM
One of my fraternity brothers (a lousy drunk who truly has a problem) was wasted one night and managed to run the entire length of his dormitory hallway and straight into a wall, flat out against it, breaking straight through the drywall at the end. He had to go to the hospital for internal bleeding and a possible concussion, but that's all. Now had he ran into a brick wall, I don't know if he'd still be around today.

BaneSidhe
12-10-2008, 09:14 AM
My mother had a dog when she was younger that was chasing something and ran into a tree, killing itself instantly.

And no, horses are not stupid. Perhaps by the way humans determine intelligence, but you're talking about a prey animal, who survived by being faster than the predator chasing them or being faster than the rest of the herd.

UncleRojelio
12-10-2008, 09:31 AM
I saw a horse die by running itself into a wall at a rodeo.

Fubaya
12-10-2008, 10:28 AM
A guy I went to school with was passing football and got hit in the forehead by the ball, putting him in a coma where he died a week or two later. This was when he was 20-22 years old, not when he was a kid. The moral of the story is not to run your head into things or things into your head. You might survive something that seems very deadly but something that doesn't seem dangerous can be fatal as well.

sailor
12-10-2008, 11:00 AM
And no, horses are not stupid. Perhaps by the way humans determine intelligence, but you're talking about a prey animal, who survived by being faster than the predator chasing them or being faster than the rest of the herd. Running fast is not the same as intelligence. At least in my book.

I cannot think of horses as intelligent animals. I cannot think of horses as doing anything which requires intelligence. Dogs yes. Crows, yes. Octopus, yes. Horses? Nah.

An animal that is so easily spooked and then runs head-on into a wall and kills itself is pretty stupid in my book. YMMV.

Max Torque
12-10-2008, 01:30 PM
In 1994, Texas Tech's mascot--The Masked Rider--was thrown or fell from her horse as she entered the stadium at a football game. The horse was spooked and bolted down the sideline toward an exit. It apparently slipped headlong into a wall and died instantly.

I was at that game. Some background:

One of Texas Tech's football traditions is the Masked Rider, an individual dressed up a bit like Zorro who rides a horse on the sidelines. Formerly, the Rider would charge full-speed around the field after a Tech touchdown. The Masked Riders no longer do this, because of what happened at the aforementioned game.

That year, a new horse was chosen to be the mount for the Masked Rider. This young horse, Double T, was evidently very high-strung; I remember before the game that he behaved pretty nervously as the new Rider rode him around the stadium. It was the first game of the season, and therefore the first time the horse had been in the stadium during a game, with a huge crowd present.

When Tech scored its first touchdown, the band played, the cannon roared (another tradition), and the Masked Rider set off around the field. The horse just couldn't handle all the noise and craziness, apparently, and he set off at a flat-out panicked run. For most folks, the horse and rider disappeared from view as Double T headed into the tunnel from which the players entered the field. There, the Rider fell from the horse, which skidded on the concrete, smashed headlong into the concrete wall of the tunnel, and died shortly thereafter. The Rider, as I recall, suffered a broken arm. The horse was soon replaced by another horse with the same name.

So, yep, a horse can die from running into a wall completely under its own power.

alice_in_wonderland
12-10-2008, 01:41 PM
Way back during my misspent youth I was at a party where the home owners cat had been heavily dosed with LSD (before I arrived).

It dove headlong into a wall and snapped it's own neck. :(

Hi, Neighbor!
12-10-2008, 02:07 PM
To answer the OP, yes, of course this is possible. It's not like the question, "Is it possible to hold your breath and suffocate to death?" - which is impossible, by the way.

BubbaDog
12-10-2008, 04:07 PM
It apparently happened last week near Kansas City, MO

Link (http://lsjournal.com/100/story/22090.html)

Rick
12-10-2008, 11:32 PM
Make the wall of frangible transparent sugar and placed at the edge of a cliff, and I think you'd have a winner! :DNaw, all you need is regular glass and a lawyer (http://snopes.com/horrors/freakish/window.asp).

clayton_e
12-11-2008, 10:50 PM
It's not like the question, "Is it possible to hold your breath and suffocate to death?" - which is impossible, by the way.


Well with some tools to assist you, say plugs for your nose and some duct tape for your mouth, yes, you could technically hold your breath and then die.



Well that was morbid.

mrpayday
12-11-2008, 11:42 PM
If you're a quadruped you've got head and spine lined up to take the full force of collision busting up your neck. Bipeds would have to lower their heads for neckbreaking to happen. Unless you're dying from having your brain smashed around.

Ruffian
12-12-2008, 12:34 AM
Horses have a nearly 360 degree view, thanks to their side-placed eyes, typical of a prey animal. Their blind spots are directly behind them (which is why one should never approach a horse from behind), and directly in front of them. Drop a carrot on the ground and watch them "find" it...their muzzle does all the work after a certain point as they cannot see exactly where it is.

A panicked horse will succumb to its instinct to flee and run, and run blindly. A friend of mine lost two of her horses in one of the weirdest fluke accidents I have ever heard of--her two young geldings panicked in their pasture and ran head on into each other. It happened not 50 feet from her; she heard their necks snap. One died instantly, the other, shortly after.

I understand why someone would consider horses dumb animals--I mean, seriously, running into each other? ...But I can attest, my 20yro Arabian mare and 9yro miniature horse (*especially* her) are every bit as smart, if not smarter, than the shetland sheepdog we had for 13 years. They're just different smart. The Arab picks up on patterns and training as fast if not faster than the sheltie did (3 repetitions is all she needed for certain ground tricks) and the mini--not so interested in being obedient--picked up on other patterns that were to her benefit, like how to open gates...sneak food...and otherwise cause mayhem.

Obsidian
12-12-2008, 01:08 AM
That year, a new horse was chosen to be the mount for the Masked Rider. This young horse, Double T, was evidently very high-strung; I remember before the game that he behaved pretty nervously as the new Rider rode him around the stadium. It was the first game of the season, and therefore the first time the horse had been in the stadium during a game, with a huge crowd present.

Wow, that's cruelly irresponsible. A good friend of mine in college used work at the Rutgers stables. The horses that carried the Scarlet Knight (the mascot) were retired police horses. I think you could have set of firecrackers in front of those animals and they'd just snort and give you the stinkeye.

Mesquite-oh
12-12-2008, 01:26 AM
I have seen a scared deer run into a somewhat flexible wire mesh fence and still end up killing herself. It hit the fence head first, bounced off, and then laid on its side with it's eyes open and it's tongue sticking out, shook a little, then died.

horsetech
12-12-2008, 01:37 AM
Relevant to the original topic, there was a horse a few years ago who was jumping around an upper level cross country jump course who misjudged a ditch and wall combination, jumped down into the ditch, and slammed into the wall, breaking its back. There was some debate about the construction of the obstacle, as the ditch was somewhat shallow compared to the width -- the horse thought it was supposed to jump down and then jump the fence/wall part but didn't make it.

Horses can be chuckleheads, for sure, and there's not much stupider than a prey animal in a blind panic, but they do have some problem-solving abilities (some more than others) and, like dogs, have complex social interactions. Like dogs, horses learn what they are and aren't supposed to do, and will sometimes wait until you aren't looking to do something forbidden. They can be clicker trained and taught tricks like dogs. Their upper lips are prehensile and, like most things, can be used for evil -- horses are notorious for letting themselves out and going roaming around the farm, or opening the feed room door to look for goodies (always, always lock your feed room door with a horse-proof latch!). A friend described her horse looking at a feed bin over the fence that he couldn't quite reach in the trunk of her car and carefully sliding the towel underneath the food pan towards himself until he could reach the food.

Speaking of upper level eventing, you can practically see these horses think in midair -- they may jump into a combination obstacle and have just a couple seconds to figure out where to put their feet as they jump, land, jump again immediately, turn, and jump another large obstacle just a couple strides later. I think this is a combination of physical agility and the ability to make decisions very rapidly -- the horses adjust their own stride and jumping effort to respond to the next element. The enormity of this calculation is apparent when a horse misjudges. Of course, not many horses can do the upper levels for some combination of physical and mental limitations.

Tangent
12-12-2008, 02:07 AM
horses are notorious for letting themselves out and going roaming around the farm

My aunt had such a horse once. One day the family returned to the farm from a trip into town to discover that this horse had opened the pasture gate, opened the sliding-glass door into the house, and was in the kitchen trying to drink a bottle of Dr. Pepper (apparently a trick his previous owner had taught him). He had NOT managed to remove the bottlecap. Oh and the goats--ever the opportunists--had followed the horse into the house and were standing around on all the furniture. :p

Renee
12-12-2008, 02:37 AM
I think this is a combination of physical agility and the ability to make decisions very rapidly -- the horses adjust their own stride and jumping effort to respond to the next element.
Also worth noting are how highly trained dressage horses are--exact sort of dance routines, where to put each foot at according to very subtle cues from the rider. No room for error. It's pretty amazing.


My aunt had such a horse once. One day the family returned to the farm from a trip into town to discover that this horse had opened the pasture gate, opened the sliding-glass door into the house, and was in the kitchen trying to drink a bottle of Dr. Pepper (apparently a trick his previous owner had taught him). He had NOT managed to remove the bottlecap. Oh and the goats--ever the opportunists--had followed the horse into the house and were standing around on all the furniture. That's awesome. I can't believe the goats didn't figure out the door first, though.:)

The Seventh Deadly Finn
12-12-2008, 06:33 AM
An animal that is so easily spooked and then runs head-on into a wall and kills itself is pretty stupid in my book. YMMV.

Humans do stuff dumber than that all the time. And at least horses don't put it on YouTube afterwards.

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