Injury Mechanics: A Brief History of Hurting People

Injury Mechanics: A Brief History of Hurting People #WorldCon75

I knew most of this information about weapons and injuries, but the presenters of this panel laid it out in such a useful way for a writer. If they use this weapon, these injury choices. So, this is my follow on to Thursday’s Writing Fight Scenes That Work.

Common Injury Reactions

When a body is injured, there are four things that commonly happen.

  • lose their guts (vomit)
  • bleeding
  • shock (from blood loss or emotionally shook)

Causes of Death

At the most basic, there are three things that cause a body to stop.

  • Brain damage
  • Low blood pressure (blood loss)
  • Heart Stop

Realistic Capabilities of First Aid

  • Prevent infection
  • Clean/Stitch wound (cuts/punctures)
  • Modern – CPR/fluids/Heimlich maneuver

Combat Types and Injuries

4 Types of Close Combat Damage and the Injuries They Incur

  1. Slashing (Cutting to the heart of the matter)
    • Main damage to unarmored areas
    • Blood loss can incapacitate or kill without treatment
    • Flesh and muscle injuries are recoverable if the organs are intact
  2. Stabbing
    • Potentially immediately deadly, especially in the liver
    • Can cause internal bleeding
    • Weapon can get stuck
    • Can bypass armour
  3. Clubbing
    • Main damage is bruising and losing combat effectiveness.
    • Concussions, maybe fractures and internal bleeding
    • If a clot breaks free, someone who seems okay can seem to randomly die even 2-3 days later.
  4. Wrestling (Twisting people to your will)
    • Most basic type of fighting
    • Breaking joints is easier than snapping bones
    • Joint injuries are harder to recover
    • Armor both protects and hinders

In large scale battles, training matters. Studies show untrained armies had large numbers of people hit in the back, head, or off-hand. If you lose, they’ll kill you. If you run, those behind you don’t know you’re from their side, they just see a warrior running at them…

Fun fact: When using a shield, the back leg won’t be hit as much.

Modern Ranged Combat

Otherwise known as poking holes in people from far away. In 50 percent of gun fights, 1 hit ends the fight.

  • Most people hit once with a pistol will walk away
  • Most people hit once with a rifle or shotgun are incapacitated.

Why are they so deadly?

  • Bloodloss
  • Damage to nervous system
  • Organ damage
  • Longer term
    • Infection
    • Internal bleeding
    • lead poisoning

Note: If you hit bone, the bouncing of the bullet makes exponentially more damage

Other Types of Modern Weapons

  1. Napalm
    • The flames aren’t what kills you, it’s the carbon monoxide poisoning
    • Most common are burn injuries
    • Loss of combat effectiveness, you drop immediately
    • The burn probably won’t kill you unless it’s a massive lethal shock
      • But infection is very, very easy
      • Fun fact: New skin often grows back with no sweat-glands so it’s easy to overheat
  2. Mustard Gas/Tear Gas, Venomous Agent X, Radiation
    • Effects internal organs, sometimes immediately, sometimes letting you live long enough to develop cancers. Depends on amount.
  3. Tasers/Electrical weapons
    • super bad for heart conditions
    • scars along nerve lines
  4. Plasma
    • both heat and electrical damage
  5. Lasers
    • burn damage

And, one of the old standbys:

  • Gravitational damage
    • Shoving someone off a cliff/out a window
    • Blunt force, similar to clubbing. Think about how they land

(These notes are from the titular panel at WorldCon 75. The panelists were Asko “Mostly Harmless” Metsäpelo, Ikka “Warlord” Niemi, and Kim Hokkanen.)


    1. I really found the panel very informative. I typically don’t share presentations during panels. Just my own personal notes.

      But most of the panel was stuff I knew, just very well organized for writing purposes!

      Caveat: ALL the jokes in this panel were theirs.


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