Happened outside of MMA, but equally brutal, nonetheless
For decades, fans have enjoyed all kinds of sports fights of the different disciplines that make up martial arts and other sports that involve intense physical contact and require large amounts of strength, technique, and precision.
Mixed martial arts is not like any street fight. It has its science, rules, and methods that in general predispose the skill and grace of each fighter in the cage during practice or competitions.
After the KOs and submissions, the liver shot is one of the most menacing fight-enders in boxing and MMA. It immediately leaves you with an intense sensation of pressure and changes the external perception.
Then you add the decompensation suffered by the individual and the collapse of the nervous system. It makes you feel that “you are left without legs”, and you lose control of your body.
But what happens to our body when we take a hit to the liver? The liver is a vital organ that is responsible, among other things, for cleaning our blood, storing glycogen (the leading food of the muscles), or synthesizing specific proteins.
Given its importance, the liver is directly connected to our brain through long nerve connections.
What Happens During a Liver Shot?
The capsule that covers our liver is full of nerves that continuously send information to our autonomic nervous system. It makes the connection between the liver and our brain as precise as possible. It is the system in charge of controlling the involuntary actions of our body, such as breathing, heart rate, and the circulatory system or our glands.
Every time we take a liver shot, a sudden pressure change inside the liver brutally activates all these nerve connections. It then causes a chain of chemical and electrical reactions that usually manifest with a brutal fall on the ground.
Pain, naturally, is a consequence of the over-excitation of all the nerve endings that line our liver.
But why do we fall to the ground? The explanation is simple: the blow to the liver causes our autonomic nervous system to react by reducing the heart rate and dilating all the veins and arteries in our body.
Combining these two responses causes a sharp drop in blood pressure. It decreases blood flow and oxygen supply to the main organs that do not allow us to stay on our feet.
Neurologists say this is an instinctive reaction. When blood pressure drops so abruptly, it becomes difficult for our heart to continue pumping blood to the highest areas of our body, such as the brain.
Logically, our body cannot allow the blood to stop reaching the brain. The liver shot dilates the vessels, so the only option to feel better is to lower the height to which the head guarantees that the blood continues to flow to the brain even and with less pressure.
Are Liver Shots Dangerous?
The liver is the largest internal organ in the abdominal cavity. Due to its size and location in the front of the abdomen, it becomes very vulnerable to injury, especially when practicing a contact sport such as mixed martial arts.
Several potential long-term consequences may result from liver injury. There’s the possible inflammation and dilatation of the liver due to persistent contusions during years of practice due to liver shots.
Experts see many complications because the anatomical structures that make up the liver begin to undergo morphological changes. These are physical changes that eventually produce functional changes.
A varied clinical picture can occur due to the increase in toxic byproducts in the blood supply. An inflamed liver, which presents altered structures and blood vessels, cannot eliminate substances adequately.
Martial arts practitioners may present increased bilirubin, presenting changes in skin color (a.k.a jaundice).
They also have nausea preceded by vomiting. Persistent feelings of nausea arise from the body’s decreased ability to process and eliminate toxins, accumulating greater quantity and metabolism changes, and digestion.
Digestive problems, such as indigestion and acid reflux, can occur with liver damage and can lead to bouts of vomiting.
Do Liver Shots Present Long-Term Damage?
As fighters get older, they begin to present inflammation of the lower limbs, ankles, and feet caused by an accumulation of fluid (a.k.a edema).
It occurs because altered liver function inhibits the body’s ability to produce, circulate and balance the proteins in the body spaces, generally in the lower limbs. By gravity, all the liquids have to go down and accumulate.
Other manifestations include loss of appetite and subsequent weight loss, personality changes, confusion, difficulty concentrating, memory loss, or hallucinations. Because of the liver’s inability to filter the blood normally and remove harmful substances from the bloodstream, toxins may accumulate and travel to the brain.
It may subsequently cause confusion and memory loss, as well as mood swings, impaired judgment, disorientation, slow speech and movement, drowsiness, and coma, sometimes called hepatic encephalopathy.
How Does a Liver Shot Knock You Out?
We’ve seen how fighters agonizingly fall to the ground after a blow to the liver. It’s never a pretty sight to see.
As I mentioned earlier, the fall after a liver shot is a physiological reaction so that the blood continues to reach the brain. Naturally, it happens within tenths of a second, and we only see the blow and the irremediable fall of the ‘victim’.
The bad news is that there is no way to control the reactions of liver stroke triggers voluntarily. Why? Again, it’s because the liver connects with the autonomic nervous system. It’s the only part of the nervous system that human beings cannot consciously control.
So now you know. The best remedy against a blow to the liver is to close the elbows well and work a good defense to avoid long-term liver damage.