Tuesday, April 08, 2008


I think I'd like to revive this blog--a little bit of the old Internet Lazarus effect. Although, really, this blog has perhaps seen more visitors in the last several months than it did in the preceding year or so, simply by virtue of Google searches about Kapali.

Every time I write his name, see a picture of him, or even have a vague passing thought about Kapali, I can hear his laugh--throaty, baritone, and unencumbered, the way you'd think that God would laugh.

I want everyone to know about what happened to him, and how. The facts of his death--the mechanism--befuddle people. Nobody can seem to fathom how a simple punch to the face can kill somebody. Ever since grade school we've been conditioned to believe that a punch results in a bruise, some lost recess time, and in the worst case, for adults, perhaps some legal repercussions that lead to onerous court visits and exhorbitant attorney fees. But very few of us can understand how a punch can claim the life of a healthy man in his mid-twenties.

What if we did understand it? What if every man and woman who came of age in America knew that being punched in the face can cause debilitating neurologic injury? What if, before squaring off to argue with another guy in a bar, a man would think, "Well, I'd better be willing to die if I really want to get into it with him"? How would that degree of knowledge saturation change things?

It's a recognized phenomenon in neurosurgery that head trauma can lead to instant death. Many years ago a neurosurgeon by the name of Genarelli researched head trauma in dogs, and found that a certain percentage of them instantly succumbed upon a cranial insult. The mechanism is presumed to be a sudden autonomic discharge, as if your body heaves all of its adrenaline into the bloodstream at once, and it overcomes the cardiorespiratory system. There's even a term for it: "commotio cerebri," similar to the term commotio cordis that refers to sudden stoppage of the heart from an impact to the chest (a phenomenon that has claimed the lives of many football and baseball players).

Though we know about it in neurosurgery, it doesn't receive much attention. Most of the time the victims plow their cars into walls at high speed and such, so we don't think much of the outcome. However, in a few instances, a simple punch in a simple fist fight is the insult that ends a life. Somehow, in this country, this fact remains a well-kept secret.

In Queensland, Australia, that's not the case. They have a state-sponsored campaign entitled "One Punch Can Kill," because they recognize the risk posed by fighting among the region's youth. So motivated individuals are making an effort to spread the word, to ensure that twenty-somethings don't blithely wander into bars and think that a physical altercation might be, at best, a way to test their manhood, and at worst, a way to get bruised up. In Queensland they want their youths to know that they can die from fighting.

I want the same thing in this country. I want everyone who sets foot on a playground or on a sports field or in a bar to know that they can die if they fight.

In Fight Club-- for some time one of my favorite movies, and indeed a favorite among many a soul-searching young male--Tyler Durden says, "How much can you know about yourself if you've never been in a fight?" I think that question resonates with some young folks in America. But I want them to realize that you might as well ask, "How much can you know about yourself if you've never drunk a liter of antifreeze?" Or, "How much can you know about yourself if you've never fallen off a 7th floor balcony?"

A single punch can kill. Kapali taught us that. If we can spread this knowledge, and if, as a result, just one person who would have died from a punch instead chooses to walk away, Kapali will not have died in vain.

Now I just need to figure out how to educate the entire country.


At 5:44 AM, Blogger phoenix said...

I have faith in you Ian and with a wanna-be-tough-guy 15 year old at home... I am willing to join you. I am going to attempt a track back to this post. I want to help spread the word.

At 7:16 AM, Blogger Ian said...

Hi Phoenix,

Thank you! My wife and I, though our plans remain inchoate, fully intend to make known the potential lethality of a simple fist-fight. I really appreciate your help!


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