Science Says Bruce Wayne's Body Could Only Handle 2-3 Years of Being Batman
Batman may have turned 75 on July 23 of this year, but in reality, Bruce Wayne's decidedly not superhuman body could only take so much abuse. According to a panel of experts at 2014 San Diego Comic Con, Batman would have had an abbreviated crime-fighting career of 2-3 years, 10 years at the absolute maximum.
Watch the full panel for all of their thoughts on "the physiology and psychology of nocturnal vigilantism":
[Credit: Lawrence Brenner]
The panelists, psychology professor Dr. Travis Langley, neuroscience and kinesiology professor Dr. E. Paul Zehr, health and exercise science expert Eric Bruce, and Marvel and DC comics writer Dennis O'Neil, explain that Batman's career consists of an unsustainable incidence of repetitive trauma (concussions, musculoskeletal injuries, etc.) for which his body would be unable to fully compensate (as was seen in comics such as The Dark Knight Rises). Similar to an NFL player, he would need to have a relatively short career in order for his body to continue functioning. They showed typical clips from films such as The Dark Knight and Batman Begins, and demonstrated that these seemingly effortless feats that he apparently just shakes off are actually reaching the "limits of the human body," and went so far as to assert that he qualifies as a sufferer of "cumulative trauma disorder." They demonstrated, for example, that for the sake of his health he shouldn't fight for at least a week after a concussion, which he would realistically sustain in nearly every fight in the Dark Knight film series.
This repetitive trauma is addressed in The Dark Knight Rises, with a doctor telling Batman: "There is no cartilage in your knee. And not much of any use in your elbows and shoulders. Between that and the scar tissue on your kidneys, residual concussive damage to your brain tissue and general scarred-over quality of your body... (Takes a deep breath.) I cannot recommend that you go heli-skiing, Mr. Wayne." But then, of course, he goes on to perform basically the same feats of which he was always capable with the use of a magic leg brace, even after he breaks his back.
They also discussed Batman's neurology and psychology, with Langley emphasizing that Bruce Wayne losing his parents was not grounds enough to diagnose him with a psychological disorder such as PTSD, as it refers to a "specific set of reactions to trauma. A person can go through a trauma, have an aversive reaction to it, a change in personality, but not fit that particular set of symptoms. For example, one of the main symptoms of PTSD is avoidance of certain stimuli that trigger memories of the trauma, which Langley asserts is the opposite of Batman's behavior: "He does not avoid reminders of what happened with the trauma that created Batman, he seeks them out. He does not avoid the bats that he was afraid of as a child, he surrounds himself with them."
Langley also wrote in Psychology Today about the collective psychology that has given rise to Batman's enduring popularity: "One of my own key points during this latest panel discussion in San Diego was that Batman has endured for 75 years largely because he seems physically and psychologically more real to us than other superheroes. He even enjoys greater popularity as a video game character, probably in part because his games allow players a greater vicarious experience. Flying around while playing Superman should be fun, too, but fully grasping that such an ability is not real can make it harder to immerse oneself in it. Making incredible combo moves while tossing thugs around as Batman might pull the player in as something that feels more real and, therefore, potentially more easily engrossing and immersive."