8/15/2012

[Warning: This article has spoilers for the movie, The Dark Knight Rises.]

In The Dark Knight Rises, Batman's first fight with the villain Bane ends with Bane dropping Batman onto his knee, leaving Batman severely injured. Few details are given in the movie, but Bruce Wayne is left immobilized in severe pain for several months until a prison doctor heals him, and Wayne returns to Gotham. The movie left us with a lot of questions, like what kind of injury Batman had, how he manages to recover so quickly, and whether the treatment he received would work.

We don't know much about back injuries, so we thought we find out from an expert: Dr. Donald Corenman. He's an orthopedic spine surgeon practicing at the Steadman Clinic in Colorado, but treats patients from all over the world. He was listed as one of the 100 Spine Surgeons and Specialists to Know. Dr. Donald Corenman is one of a handful of individuals that are both an MD and doctor of chiropractic and is an expert at treating disorders of the lumbar and cervical spine. He's so well respected that Dr. Corenman offers his clinical services to the U.S. Ski Team. He also travels to lecture in places as far away as Hong Kong and Paris.

If you've never seen the movie The Dark Knight Rises, Batman is fighting the supervillain Bane. Bane lifts him over his head and drops him across his knee. Bruce Wayne wakes to find himself bed-ridden in prison for several months. A prisoner examines his back and says he has a protruding disc. The man painfully pushes it back in place and then hangs Batman from a rope to straighten his spine for several months. Batman heals completely and escapes to fight Bane in Gotham City.
The first question we asked, could Batman have sustained the kind of injury he had from Bane's kneedrop?

Dr. Corenman explained that Batman's injury as depicted in the movie is called a spinal disc herniation, and this is unlikely given the scenario. "'Bending' a person over a knee through the spine hyperextends the spine. This causes facet fractures and tears of the anterior disc. This injury typically will not cause a disc herniation."

Even dropping Batman from the height Bane did wouldn't cause it. He continued, "The distance to the impact point will increase the inertia and therefore the force of the impact. The impact, however, does not change in the biomechanics but just increases the forces that then create more injury. You would not generally cause a herniation with this maneuver but fracture bone and tear disc."

So it seems the back injury wouldn't happen, but let's say it did. Is it possible for Wayne to be hung up and healed the way he was in the movie?

"Let us suspend judgment and assume," continued Corenman, "that the disc is herniated through this maneuver. A disc tear is required to allow a herniation to occur. This disc tear never heals because the disc is avascular (no blood supply). You cannot reduce a disc herniation back to the center of the disc as the mechanics do not allow this to happen. Without surgery, a typical disc herniation takes between eight weeks to four months for an individual to recover. Ah - if fantasy could only be reality."


And what about one of the most memorable moment in The Dark Knight Rises, when the doctor's assistant literally punches Wayne's back to get the vertebrae into place?

"Unfortunately," said Corenman, "you cannot 'punch' a disc back into place or I would be taking karate lessons."

So, Bruce Wayne's injury couldn't have happened because you can't get a protruding disc from a Hulk Hogan-style knee drop. Even if you did, just punching it back in place and hanging from a rope won't leave you ready to fight Bane after a few push-ups.

About Dr. Donald Corenman, MD, DC
Dr. Donald Corenman, MD, DC (http://neckandback.com | 970-479-5895), is an experienced spine surgeon in Colorado who is a passionate researcher on all conditions of the spine. As a dedicated surgeon and skilled lecturer of spinal surgeries, he provides patient feedback so that other patients can learn about specific surgeries and the outcomes to expect such as this spine surgery patient video.
Dr. Corenman recently launched a spine resource site on the Internet for patients, physicians and other spine surgeons seeking additional information. You can visit his website at http://neckandback.com to learn more about his expertise and about all spinal conditions and surgeries. The patient description of spine surgery should not be used for medical advice, rather, should help answer some general questions a spine surgery patient may ask.

Dr. Corenman is a spine surgeon in Colorado but he diagnoses and treats patients from all over the world. You can view more spine related presentations for public viewing by visiting: http://www.slideshare.net/neckandback ; For spine images, visit: http://www.flickr.com/photos/neckandback/ ; To visit Dr. Corenman on LinkedIn, visit: http://www.linkedin.com/in/drdonaldcorenmanspinesurgeon
What do you think about the broken back in The Dark Knight Rises?

[Image Source: Nerdapproved]
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8 comments:

Alex J. Cavanaugh said...

I knew there was no way. But how many action movies do we watch where people perform superhuman acts and sustain injuries but keep on going? Just goes with the territory and you have to suspend belief a little.

Pat Dilloway said...

Yeah that and the fusion reactor were the two most implausible parts of the film. In the comic it made slightly more sense since Bane was hopped up on Venom and had a bunch of plastic shields embedded in his skin. Oh well, it's just a movie.

Minyak Man said...

I suffered a herniated disc not too long ago ( am recovering at the moment after months of intense therapy). That part of the movie kind of spoiled it for me cause i was just sitting there watching it happen while feeling pain on my back and leg.

seeing bruce recovered just like made me want to stand up and yell "bullshit!"

Haha, im taking this movie a little bit too seriously i know :P

Anonymous said...

"Without surgery, a typical disc herniation takes between eight weeks to four months for an individual to recover." Wayne is in prison for about 4 months from what I recall. In the comics a mystic healer rejuvinates waynes back maybe the old man had an unsaid special gift.

james said...

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bigtruckseriesreview . said...

They really dropped the ball by not actually USING the power knee brace, or by not having a powered armor batsuit similar to the brace to help Batman beat Bane like they had in the comic.

Maurice Mitchell said...

You're right Man. That would have been epic.

James D. said...

So... the quote from the Dr. sold it for me. No surgery, it can heal in 4 months. He's in the prison for 5 with guidance from a Dr. Enough for me. Boom! Plus, he's fuckin Batman.

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