The following scenario attempts to describe a typical play on a typical Sunday here in America while watching an NFL game.
Play by play announcer: “He’s at the twenty, cuts back across the field, the thirty, the forty! One man to beat, ooh what a hit! He took that helmet right in the breadbasket! I’m surprised he held on to the ball!
Commentator: “ Yeah, that had to hurt. Looks like he’s gonna be down for awhile”
Play by play announcer: “Here comes the trainer out to take a look. Let’s hope it not something serious”
What follows next are images of the player splayed out on the field while the anxious training staff tends to the injuries. A hush falls over the crowd and instant replays from almost every conceivable angle are shown ad nauseam. After a few moments, the player rises and trots off the field. The crowd cheers and the carnage is set to resume.
In sports terminology what happened to the player in this instance is known as getting the wind knocked out of you.
I remember the first time it happened to me. I was playing in a pee wee version of the NFL and fell directly on top of the ball when somebody brought me down from behind. To this day, besides getting ambushed and kicked squarely in the nuts one time by an ex wife as I was exiting the shower, it ranks right up there with one of the most frightening few seconds I’d ever experienced.
For those few seconds, you literally cannot freakin’ breathe. Your eyes grow wide with panic and any breath that you already had inside your lungs is seemingly expelled and you lay on the ground gasping for air that won’t seem to come. In that brief moment of panic, you are quite sure that you’re about to go meet your maker.
So what really happens to your body when this situation occurs?
For starters, you have this muscle under your lungs called the diaphragm that helps you breathe. When you catch a good shot to the stomach or, sometimes the back, the diaphragm will go into a temporary state of shock and contract. It takes a while for it to realize that it’s okay and even though it only stops functioning for a few seconds, those few seconds will seem like an eternity.
Once it starts functioning normally again you’ll be gasping for air like a person who just survived a near drowning. It might take a few minutes or so before your breathing will return to normal but once it does you are free to resume whatever activity caused the situation to occur.
PS. If anybody knows the scientific or biological term for getting the wind knocked out of you, let me know and I'll request an edit.