Are necks really that fragile?

We’ve all seen it in the movies or on TV shows. Someone who needs killin’ gets their neck snapped by someone else who just grabs their head and does a quick twist, moving their hands in opposite directions.

Death, it seems, is instantaneous. In all cases it seems to take little effort to dispatch someone.

Possibly, every single person being attacked in this manner is the victim of a disease making their vertebrae–and all the neck muscles–incredibly easy to break. Or maybe all the attackers have got incredible grip and arm strength.

Given that Hollywood takes the occassional liberty with facts, but due to the prevalence of this “technique” I can’t help but wonder if there’s any basis in fact. I am sure it is possible to break someone’s neck; after all, that’s the preferred outcome of a hanging, but just how hard is it to do so using only your hands/arms/legs?

I’m afraid to wear a baseball cap for fear that I might have it adjusted too snug and a gust of wind might catch the bill and torque my fool head off.

Apparently Soledad O’Brien can’t do it.

Ah but that’s a choke hold. Meant to deprive the body of oxygen and all that entails. I’m lookijng for information on the Magic Kung Fu Neck Snap which somehow severs all the nerves so that there’s none of that uncomfortable waiting for the victim to stop making those sidgusting noises.

(At this point I feel a disclaimer is necessary. I have no plans to attack anybody and am just questioning if this has a basis in fact since I see it so much.):slight_smile:

There was a thread on IRL vs. Movie neck-snapping recently. I can’t find it though.

Sure. My take on it is that if she can’t choke a child, she can’t snap an adult’s neck either, which presumably requires more force. Left unanswered is exactly how Soledad knows for a fact she can’t kill a child by choking him or her.

The spinal cord itself only has a tensile strength of something like 20 Newtons, which is tiny,

If you manipulate the spine in the right way, I can certainly believe you could break it with just your arm strength and with little effort. Not sure it is quite as easy as they depict it in the movies - the human body developed pretty sturdy protection for it in the form of vertebrae, ligaments and muscles.

Got it. :slight_smile:

My martial-arts-practicing friend is not even remotely a reliable source for GQ. BUT, I think I believe him on this one.

Snapping someone’s neck is not at all hard if you know what to do and everyone is in the right position. However, it’s pretty easy to move into the wrong position. So its something like a baseball pitcher getting a perfect game - possible, but extremely easy for the other guy to mess up your best efforts.

‘Dude! You messed me up! Now I’m really going to do you!’

It’s entirely possible to break somebody’s neck with your arms or legs, but not the way most movies show it done with the “walk up behind the guy and twist his neck a quick quarter spin with your hands” technique. That’s probably just going to give him a neckache.

Neck injuries can happen with techniques that manipulate the neck and spinal cord in wrestling, Brazillian Jiu-Jitsu, and submission grappling, like Neck cranks.

Bas Rutten demonstrates a neck crank

Neck cranks and other spinal manipulations are frequently barred from use in competition because of the possibility of injury, which can be mild or catastrophic. Herniated discs are more common, but broken vertabrae can happen - a close friend of mine who’s about brown belt level in BJJ had several vertabrae cracked by a neck crank, requiring surgery. These injuries are between guys who aren’t trying to actually hurt each other; if somebody actually wants to break your neck, it’s certainly possible (don’t roll with that guy :slight_smile: ).

There are also some WWII close quarter combatives (CQC) techniques for breaking a sentry’s neck from behind by starting with a choke hold and slamming your own body weight full force to the ground on the opponent’s neck, but I can’t speak to the efficacy of that one way or the other, except to say “works in theory.”

When I was in Korea in the Army in the 90’s there was an article in the newspaper about how a Korean barber (female) had accidentally killed a soldier by giving him a neck twist. Korean barbers like to give a head and shoulders rubdown after the haircut. After that, all Korean barbers on post were directed to stop giving head twists. Sorry, no cite. Might have been in the Stars and Stripes.

Sounds like it could have been a stroke from pinching off or rupturing the vertabral artery - it’s very, very rare, but it can happen with chiropractic manipulation of the neck.

Chiropractic Manipulation and Stroke

The versions I always see look a lot like someone moving the neck the same way most people seem to pop their neck.

I worked with a woman who often popped her own neck; it made a noise like a 22 round. Scared the hell out of me because I always expected to see her drop dead in her tracks. I haven’t thought of her in years.

I imagine necks are pretty fragile as (far as i know) they dont have any extra protection. In example, the chest area, without ribs it would be pretty easy to kill any animal. Thus, since the neck hasn’t got any bones around it, its much more fragile.

(maybe animals are to develop rib like bones in the neck?)

I’ve cervically dislocated chickens with my hands. (Read that as: “decapitated, but without breaking the skin.”) It is not easy and involves holding the entire chicken and angling the head just so. I’ve attempted the same technique with ducks and, to my horror, only achieved jaw fractures. I can only successfully perform it on turkeys when they are juveniles, the adults being far too sturdy.

My OP was to find out if what we see in the movies and on TV is anywhere close (and I stress that) to what might be expected to work in real life.

My conclusions from the posts so far are that:
It is certainly possible to break someone’s neck;
It’s not that easy to do it;
There are specific martial arts techniques that might do it if everything is set up right (and remember, we’re usually positing someone sitting or standing when the assassin sneaks up on them however that might be framed), but;
It’s easy for the victim to mess that up if he/she does almost anything;
I must make sure my chiropractor is careful. :slight_smile:

By extension, I’ll throw in a corollary question: Could you manipulate your own neck in such a way as to commit suicide?

Previous threads:

I could have sworn the Mythbusters covered this in a martial arts related episode, but I guess I was thinking of the “Killer Airplane Crash Brace Position” myth, which they busted. Since they liked to do ninja-style myths on a regular basis this seems right up their alley.

Sure - it requires a length of rope, something to tie the rope onto, and a bit of a drop, though.

Short of that - I doubt it. We’ve got this thing called “pain” which kicks in when bits of our body start pushing up against their maximum range of movement. It’s kind of hard to keep doing anything damaging once that kicks in.