The Science of Injury Part 3 – Walking Muscles

Hoo-boy! I’ve SO neglected this little informational series of mine. I think the last post in this series was about…um… well I can’t remember how long ago. Maybe even six months? Shame on me.

Just to refresh your memories, this Science of Injury series gives you an idea of what a character would look like, how they would feel, and if they could even survive a particular injury. I’m asked quite a bit about the plausibility of injuries since I’m a physical therapist, and I’m always happy to share my knowledge. So here we go!

Walking Sign(morgueFile free photos)

Walking is pretty essential, wouldn’t you say? Unless you create a character that can’t walk, doesn’t need to walk, or can somehow fly everywhere through magical powers, walking will be an important part to your story. You may not realize it, but there are many injuries you can sustain that will affect your gait.

That list could be quite lengthy, so today I’m going to focus on the prime muscles required to walk. If any of these are slashed, bruised, torn, or otherwise bashed about, walking will not only be excruciatingly painful, it may be impossible.

Here’s the list, in no particular order.

1. Calf muscles – the calf muscles are crucial when it comes to pushing off during walking. It’s what propels us forward to take the next step. Severing the calf muscle will make it impossible to walk, unless your character hops around on one leg. Bruising or injuring it will make his walk very painful and he will limp for at least a few days, up to a couple weeks, until it heals. Even then, if it’s not properly treated, the muscle could be too tight and possibly build up calcium deposits that will erode the healthy muscle tissue. Not pretty.

2. Quadricep muscles – these guys are the huge front-of-the-thigh muscles that every body builder in the world works on to bulk up so you can see the defined edges of the four muscles that make up this massively powerful beast. Taking out the quad muscle will make it nearly impossible to walk. Though I’ve treated patients who tore it so bad on the job, they shouldn’t have been able to walk, but they did. The quads are important for stability and to keep our legs stable and straight when we stand and walk. Weak quads will make our knees buckle and, without a brace and/or crutches, a character would crumple to the ground. Again, a bruised muscle wouldn’t do this, but walking would be painful.

3. Hamstrings – these powerful dudes are on the back of our thighs. It’s probably important to also mention the butt muscles (gluteals or gluts) because they work in conjunction with the hamstrings. If these are injured, walking will still be possible, but very painful and you won’t get far fast. There is absolutely no way you’ll be able to run. Our hamstrings and calves are the most important running muscles, so taking away either of them would lead to an inability to run. So, if a bad guy in your book just took out your MC’s hammies, there’s no way your MC would be able to run or walk away from the baddie. They wouldn’t be able to get away fast enough.

4. Back muscles – there are long muscles in our backs that begin at the base of our skull and attach to our hip bones. These are called the erector spinae muscles. There are three muscles in each group alongside each side of the spine. They are crucial for posture, especially standing upright or walking/running. If one of these muscles is attacked, walking will become painful, and your character would actually start to weave all over the place because he wouldn’t be able to stand/walk upright. He’d be hunched over and in terrible pain. If both sides of this muscle group on both sides of the spine are taken out, your character won’t be able to stand or sit or even kneel upright. They’d be down on all fours or crumple to the ground.

Many of you are probably thinking–what about the abs?

Yes, it’s true, our abdominals are important for many things, and yes, they’re needed during gait, but think about all the overweight and obese people you see. Or women just after they’ve given birth. In both cases, the abs are stretched out, weak, and not very active. But the people are still able to walk. I’m not saying they’re not important, and certainly, if someone injures your abs, walking upright will be uncomfortable, but the other four muscle groups mentioned above affect gait so much more.

There we are! Hopefully you’ve learned a thing or two about the muscles needed during walking. So, if you decide to injure your character, make sure you research the injury to make sure it’s plausible, and if they’re able to get away from the attacker.

As always, if you have ANY questions, or would like a certain topic addressed in this series, don’t hesitate to comment.

Happy writing!
“If you can’t fly then run, if you can’t run then walk, if you can’t walk then crawl, but whatever you do you have to keep moving forward.”
― Martin Luther King Jr.

“The best revenge is to be unlike him who performed the injury.”
― Marcus AureliusMeditations

“No man or woman alive, magical or not, has ever escaped some form of injury, whether physical, mental, or emotional. To hurt is as human as to breathe.”
― J.K. RowlingThe Tales of Beedle the Bard

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