for National Geographic News
Martial artists have long known that the human body can be a powerful weapon.
Now a study of Welsh emergency room patients has concluded that kicks are significantly more likely to cause serious injuries than assaults using other parts of the body—or even attacks using objects such as knives or bats.
Researchers at Cardiff University in Wales examined the medical records of nearly 25,000 people treated in a local hospital between 1999 and 2005 (related photos: the new Wales).
The researchers tallied the victims' injuries according to a five-point triage scale based on the urgency of treatment needed.
Reporting in a recent issue of the journal Injury Prevention, lead study author Jonathan Shepherd and colleagues found that while kicks were less common, such assaults caused greater damage than either punches or attacks with weapons.
(Related news: "Martial Artists' Moves Revealed in Fight Science Lab" [August 14, 2006].)
"Injuries that came from the use of the feet were more likely to lead to a hospital admission," Shepherd said.
Kicks were more likely to inflict serious head and brain injuries and were more likely to produce broken bones.
"It's probably the greater momentum that's generated [by a kick] compared to fists which is most likely to produce more severe injuries," Shepherd said.
Of the more than 31,000 recorded injuries examined for the study, Shepherd's team found that about 7 percent were due to being kicked.
About 21 percent of the injuries were caused by blunt or sharp weapons, while slightly more than 50 percent were due to punches.
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