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I recently read a post in the Portland Press Herald about a man who was killed after a single punch to the face. Obviously, the answer is yes, one punch can kill, because we are seeing it more and more often. But that doesn’t necessarily mean the defendant should take all the blame. The outcome begs the questions:

How hard was the punch? Was it just an unlucky strike that landed at the perfect location? Was there something going on with the victim that made him susceptible to internal bleeding? What can we do to build a defense strategy?

This is actually a common theme in the cases I work on. I just finished a case where a man was sucker-punched and ended up in a coma for 3 months. He’ll never be the same. The factors we used to build the defense include punch force, punch focus and the effects of alcohol on the body. Was the punch harder than an “average” punch? Did the punch land in a critical spot that caused more damage than if it had been an inch to the left? We also looked at the victim’s blood alcohol content and its effect.

Punch Force

  • I worked with biomedical engineers to answer questions about punch force. One expert I spoke to stated that it’s actually difficult to estimate punch force, but you can estimate a range from studies done on boxers and fighters. Another expert stated that it is possible to determine how hard the punch had to be in order to cause the injuries that occurred.

Punch Focus

  • The newspaper article from Portland doesn’t state where the punch landed. We have all heard that there is a “sweet spot” (for lack of a better term) where a person can be killed instantly. It is not something that occurs very often, but clearly that would be a factor to research in the Portland case. In a Google search I wasn’t able to find any reference to such a single spot. My training as a nurse didn’t cover that either, but I can make an educated guess and say that any punch to the face has the potential to kill if the force behind it is strong enough to cause an intracranial bleed. But not all intracranial bleeds kill, so other factors would need to occur in order to make it deadly.

Blood Alcohol

  • Research shows that alcohol intoxication affects the body’s ability to form blood clots, meaning that any injury that causes bleeding is going to have a poorer outcome than if he/she was sober. This means that a small bleed in the brain is now a big bleed in the brain; and the bigger the bleed, the more likely the victim is to have long-term neurological problems.

In closing, there are many factors that can be researched and proven to have an effect on the outcome. Most the time, a fight is just that: a fight. It is unfortunate when a couple of guys get into a fight and the outcome is such a life-altering one… for both sides.

Works Cited: de Lange, D. W., Hijmering, M. L., Lorsheyd, A., Scholman, W. L., Akkerman, J.-W. N., & van de Wiel, A. (2006). Rapid Intake of Alcohol (Binge Drinking) Inhibits Platelet Adhesion to Fibrinogen Under Flow. Alcoholism, Clinical & Experimental Research. Hench, D. (2010, May 27). A single punch, then death. Retrieved December 7, 2010, from The Portland Press Herald

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