This chart describes the key problem with being Batman — it doesn't take a serious injury to seriously disable you. Your body can rack up big damage over years of repeated small stresses and strains — jumping from roof to roof two or three times a week, for instance, or slamming your knuckles into a bad guy's face every night.
Neuroscientist and kinesiologist Paul literally wrote the book on what it would take to create a non-superhuman superhero, like Batman. In a post at Scientific American blogs, he explains the major physical impacts of being the Dark Knight. His big conclusion: Nobody could be Batman for very long. And even after they retired, they'd feel the echo of what they'd done to their body every day for the rest of their lives.
It’s hard to gauge the long-term effects of being exposed to these harsh occupations. Looking at NFL players provides another way to get at long term effects. In fact I used the very short average career—3-5 years—of NFL players as a way to estimate Batman’s longevity in Becoming Batman.
Skilled writer Peter King provided an in-depth expose on football players in the Dec 12, 2011 issue of Sports Illustrated. This piece was a follow up look at 39 members of the 1986 Cincinnati Bengals—25 years later—and spanned all forms of injury. But it’s the bodily injuries I want to focus on. In the category of “residual injury” over 70% had at least one surgery during their careers with ~40% having a post-NFL surgery for an injury related to football. Thirty percent had an upcoming surgery. More than 90% of the players said that they had lingering issues arising from an injury derived from their NFL careers.
Probably the most telling “statistic” is that on average these players reported 3 parts of the body that experienced pain each day. That’s a lot of injuries and a lot of discomfort.
Basically, Batman's inner pain isn't just about his dead parents.
Maggie Koerth-Baker is the science editor at BoingBoing.net. She writes a monthly column for The New York Times Magazine and is the author of Before the Lights Go Out, a book about electricity, infrastructure, and the future of energy. You can find Maggie on Twitter and Facebook.