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Medical Anatomy of a 'liver strike'

  1. May 17, 2008 #1
    In combat sports there is a fight-ending strike (punch or kick) called the liver strike (or liver shot / liver kick). Basically it's a punch (or kick) aimed below the right pectoral muscle into the area where the liver is located. When it hits, the fighter experiences excruciating pain, and usually falls to the floor into a fetal position. The pain is described as a debilitating burning sensation, accompanied by a complete loss of breath. There does not seem to be any permanent damage, as the fighters are usually able to stand back up within minutes.

    What is the physiological cause for the intense pain? Does it have something to do with the vagus nerve plexus?

    Due to my low postcount i can't post URL links to fights with liver strikes. But you can see a couple on Youtube by looking for "Filipovic vs Magomedov" or "Gono vs. Salaverry".
  2. jcsd
  3. May 17, 2008 #2


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    First, do not assume there is no permanent damage (standing up doesn't mean no damage). A blow to the area of the liver certainly can cause liver damage (even improperly performed CPR can damage the liver, so certainly a punch or kick to that region could). From the location you're describing, it's not quite clear, actually, if they'd be kicking the location of the liver or the base of the lungs (it's very near the boundary of both. It could be damage to the ribs or blow near the lungs that leaves them out of breath. Also, along with the innervation along the ribs (subcostal nerves), the hepatic branch of the vagus nerve, and plenty of unnamed nerve branches, anyone thinking of this should also be aware that there are large arteries and veins in that area...damage any of those and one could bleed out rather quickly. In other words, do not try this at home, and indeed, do not do it unless you truly are fighting for your life.
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