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Friday, June 17, 2011

Scientists study head injuries in comic books

Academics have carried out a detailed analysis of the 700 head injuries suffered by characters in the Asterix comic books.

German scientists calculated the "plucky little Gaul" and his sidekick Obelix were responsible for causing more than half of the wounds with Roman soldiers the most common victims.

They found that many of those who were knocked out in the 34 books were often left with an outstretched tongue or amnesia but none appeared to die, reports the Daily Telegraph.

The researchers, led by Marcel Kamp at Heinrich Heine University in Düsseldorf, concluded: "The favourable outcome is astonishing, since outcome of traumatic brain injury in the ancient world is believed to have been worse than today and also since no diagnostic or therapeutic procedures were performed."

Their paper, published in the official journal of the European Association of Neurosurgical Socities, sets out with no apparent irony their aim to "analyse the epidemiology and specific risk factors of traumatic brain injury in the Asterix illustrated comic books".

They explain how in the books, published first in France in the 1960s and 1970s, the inhabitants of a small village in Gaul resist the Roman invasion with the help of a magic potion brewed by a druid.

The main characters "thump" Romans, pirates and Goths but a "detailed analysis had not been performed hitherto" of the injuries they suffered. By screening all 34 books, the authors found 704 cases of head or brain injury.

More victims (390) suffered severe trauma than moderate (89) or mild (225), with the researchers using the standard Glasgow coma scale to assess the seriousness of their wounds.

About half (390) lost consciousness after being attacked and 188 were drawn with hypoglossal paresis - "an outstretched or sideward pointing tongue".

However the paper notes: "No case of death or a permanent neurological deficit following traumatic brain injury has been found."

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