All of those little scrapes and bruises have a way of really adding up.
What happens when you get enough injuries, even if you appear
to be Made of Iron
. Usually showcased by having a Made of Iron
hero trudge into their headquarters after an action scene (one that more often than not establishes how much punishment the hero can give and receive) only to have them shuffle off their uniform and reveal the various injuries and strain on their joints that a life of adventure would realistically lead to. Typically done to show the hero even more of a Determinator
than first thought since they're still out doing what they do despite looking like they should be in a hospital.
Often the fate for a hero who pushes himself into Heroic RROD
mode on a regular basis.
See also Scar Survey
, Perilous Old Fool
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Anime and Manga
- Whitebeard from One Piece. He's still the strongest pirate in the world at the time of the series, but his age has caught up with him. Despite how much ass he kicks during the Battle of Marineford, it's acknowledged that he's not as good as he was during his prime. Which is why he dies. He was stabbed 267 times (including being impaled on a giant sword), shot 562 times, hit with 46 cannonballs, and pierced by lasers along with having half his face melted off. 20 years earlier, that still wouldn't have been enough to kill him. Special mention goes to the fact, however, that, despite his front side getting absolutely obliterated, his back, even all these years, is completely spotless, owing to the fact that he never ran from a fight.
- This is the primary reason the original heroes of Kinnikuman, especially Kinnikuman himself, had to step aside for the younger generation in Kinnikuman Nisei.
- This trope is brought up in the third and final arc of Rurouni Kenshin. In the epilogue that takes place five years later, it's gotten so bad that Kenshin has to give up his signature sword style due to the strain it put on him, despite only being in his 30s, because his frame was lighter than what his Hiten Mitsurugi style was designed for. (And unlike his teacher, and despite said teacher's warnings, Kenshin was never into that whole weight-lifting thing.).
- Invoked during the course of the Blame! manga with the main protagonist, Killy, who endures many physical hardships during his journey. By the final chapters, his otherwise indestructible body is literally falling apart.
- At the end of Guilty Crown, Shu ends up blind and with a bionic arm to replace the one Gai sliced off.
- Underneath his flowing red trench coat, Vash the Stampede of Trigun hides a body covered with scars and stitches. Despite his absurd luck and reflexes allowing him to avoid and overcome an endless stream of bounty hunters gunning for him, his adherence to not killing means he's suffered at the hands of his more persistent opponents.
- While Guts of Berserk is practically a One-Man Army, he never makes it through a fight unscathed. Over the course of the series he loses a hand and an eye, while his body becomes riddled with scars. Eventually he's forced to wear magic armour at all times to prevent a mystical wound from killing him, taking it off only to have his day-to-day injuries treated.
- It gets to the point that his body is so scarred that he can't sweat any more and to make matters worse the mystic armour robs him of life the more he uses it, steadily bleaching his hair, making it so he can't see colour or taste things and implied to eventually lead him to be a literal walking corpse like the Skull Knight.
- Batman whenever they show him in old age (Batman: The Dark Knight Returns, Batman Beyond, Kingdom Come, etc)
- Jason Aaron's 2010 - 2012 run on The Punisher MAX explored the physical and emotional toll that 30+ years of crime fighting had had on the then-60 year old Frank. While still a nigh-unstoppable killing machine, as he's battered by more and more challenges, his condition gets more and more dire, finally resulting in his death.
- The Dead Man arc in Judge Dredd showed that, horrific burns aside, Dredd has a lot of scars from bullets.
- Shows up from time to time in Astro City, typically after a Badass Normal superhero has had a particularly tough fight.
- A theme present in all Rocky films, Rocky Balboa even has Duke run down a laundry list of Rocky's injuries, and why he has to train for pure power.
- The effectiveness of the aging James Bond, M, Mallory, MI6, Skyfall Manor and Britain itself are all questioned in Skyfall, only for all of them to prove to be considerably tougher than they look.
- In the aged version, the unofficial movie Never Say Never Again has a doctor declaring that most of Bond's skin is scar tissue.
- One of the better moments of the Daredevil film has the titular hero shambling into his apartment after a relatively tame night of crimefighting, taking off his costume, tending to a battery of scars and bruises and popping an absurd amount of pain pills just so he can get some sleep.
- Evoked in one Redwall book with Lord Asheye, a Badger Lord who fought a great deal when he was younger and is now always aching because of his many, many scars.
- Very much a running theme in The Acts of Caine series with Hari/Caine.
- Zig-Zagged in The Dresden Files, where Harry notes that the amount of punishment he's taken over the years would give him the health problems of a football player. But, as a wizard he heals perfectly over time, without scar tissue or the aftereffects of broken bones. That said, it still takes him a normal time to heal from his wounds. Such as when he had severe second-degree burns on his hand, it took several years for it to get back into his old range of movements without pain or stiffness.
- In Cold Days, it's revealed that Mab grants her Winter Knight a higher pain threshold without necessarily a corresponding increase in durability. He's able to get back up when he wouldn't otherwise, but he'll be weakened after the battle without even realizing it. Mab gets all the power of an unstoppable juggernaut at less cost in effort than needed to control a weaker man, because he'll so frequently need her ministrations.
- Though it is offhandedly mentioned that his ability to heal is greatly increased(makes sense, pain or no pain, when the body can't move it just can't, so making your hit-man able to be in top condition faster than his opponents is a good idea).
- Geralt of The Witcher series is in a profession where he is constantly at risk of getting slashed by both monster claws and man-made steel alike. While he's pretty much considered the best witcher that has ever lived, all those years on the job have really left their marks on his body.
- Tortall Universe:
- Alanna complains of this in the Protector of the Small books. Even her ability to heal herself with magic hasn't stopped numerous aches and pains from getting battered in armor for fifteen years.
- Although Mattes Tunstall is one of the most famous Dogs in the Provost's Dog books, he's been in far too many fights and brawls over the years. He gets both legs broken in Bloodhound and spends the rest of the book laid up because his body is resistant to healing magic now.
- The protagonist of A Harvest Of War has numerous scars to show for her violent, long life and mentions being in constant pain. Her ankle strength is a distinct problem.
- Whenever a Police Procedural does an episode involving contact sports, there's a good chance that this trope will arise, probably because someone is covering up the fact that a celebrity player is dented iron and shouldn't be competing at all.
- Paul Simon's "The Boxer".
In the clearing stands a boxer and a fighter by his trade,
And he carries the reminders of every glove that laid him down,
Or cut him 'til he cried out in his anger and his shame,
"I am leaving, I am leaving."
But the fighter still remains.
- Similarly, John Gorka's "Dream Street."
They never leave the ring before it's too late
They never seem to quit in their prime
I guess it's taken as a given that a champion is driven
So he can always win one more fight.
- One heartbreaking real-life version of this was the case of pro-wrestler Chris Benoit. After his death, studies showed that his brain had significant degradation, and certain proteins that are most commonly found in elderly Alzheimer's patients.
- The Undertaker is the same way. Scarily so in fact, because he has been wrestling for nearly 30 years and he can still go toe-to-toe with the younger guys. In a great bit of kayfabe exposition, John Cena once described The Undertaker as the only wrestler who intimidates him.
- It should be noted that seeing the Undertaker actually wrestle is increasingly uncommon; due to the many injuries that have piled up over his long career he works a much shorter schedule than most WWE performers.
- You'll notice that when Bret Hart is in the ring now, he doesn't do any actual wrestling moves. He can't. He's taken so many concussions of such severity that he is medically banned from wrestling, lifting weights, or flying in planes. He also suffered a stroke in the early 2000s.
- Mick Foley is another prime example. Never the most physically intimidating specimen, he was more than willing to go through the most hardcore matches imaginable. The toll those early years took on him are evident to this day, and he once described a trip to the doctor: "He told me that I'm in my thirties, but I have the skeleton of an eighty-year-old."
- Played for Laughs with Perry Saturn in 2001. The story was that he had suffered so many blows to the head that he was now a Cloudcuckoolander that ordered crayons with mustard at restaurants and dated a mop. This was punishment for shooting on a jobber on a syndicated show.
- There's a reason Shimmer's second champion, MsChif, wrestled in a pair of DonJoys. Years of Gateway's signature Light Heavyweight Fatal Four Ways had done her legs few favors and that extra support let her tough out two years as champion of Shimmer and the NWA World Women's division.
- Daffney Unger retired from active competition due to various injuries, including multiple concussions and a crushed sternum. She ended up suing TNA for repeatedly booking her in matches where she had to take extreme bumps even when she protested, and for refusing to cover her hospital bills. The case was settled out of court, but she has said she will likely never wrestle again.
- In the first Baldur's Gate, Dynaheir implies that her bodyguard Minsc's 'unique' view on life is the result of taking too many blows to the head over his career as a berserker.
- The protagonist in Planescape: Torment is an immortal being who has lived for hundreds of years and been killed nearly innumerable times. As a result, he is covered head to toe in scar tissue.
- He can benefit from items normally intended to work on undead zombies because his body is just that ruined.
- In the 2013 Tomb Raider reboot, Lara goes through a LOT of punishment. The first thing that happens to her is her getting impaled on a spike. While she can push on throughout most of the game, the injures do pile up. There are times when her mobility is hampered until she gets some help. By the end, she has quite a few scars, and not just physical ones either.
- Solid Snake in Metal Gear Solid 4. In his career as a super-soldier, he's taking so much of a beating physically, mentally and genetically that he's turned into a man who's physically in his 60-70s and is reliant on nanotech injections to keep from coming apart at the seams.
- In Mass Effect 3, this is the state that Commander Shepard is left in after being blasted by Harbinger. It's impressive that s/he's even able to move at all.
- Ben T. Sharpley from Everyday Heroes was caught in a training accident while in the Army. Because of this, his spine is bent at a right angle; still, he manages to work full-time running an amusement arcade.
- Agent 250, of Niels / Secret Agent Men fame, is forced to transfer job positions within the Agency after this starts to occur.
- Toph cites this as the reason she and Katara didn't participate in any of the goings on in The Legend of Korra. About seventy years after the events of Avatar: The Last Airbender, they don't move like they used to anymore due to age, injuries and what have you, although they do teach and heal where they can. Case in point, after the first real fight she's had in quite some time, Toph mentions that her back was just about to give.
- It also shows when Zuko participated in the fight against the Red Lotus with Tonraq, Desna and Eska. While he lasted a good while longer than the latter two, who are exceptionally talented young waterbenders, he was floored by one solid hit from Ghazan.
- Bonnie and Clyde were like this: Clyde had an inmate chop some of his toes off with an axe to get out of hard labor at Texas' Eastham prison house, and walked with a limp as a result. Bonnie suffered third degree burns to her leg, possibly from battery acid, after a car crash in June 1933. The couple couldn't get medical treatment for her, and her leg muscles drew up, leaving her unable to straighten her leg out. Those pictures of Clyde carrying her? It's because she couldn't walk.
- Many real life sports. Even the strain of exerting yourself in specific ways will eventually wear your body out even if you aren't suffering obvious damage from such things as being body-checked or tackled or punched.
- Most special forces personnel retire for medical reasons because of their grueling training regimen.
- Military of every country has a LOT of soldiers like this, but especially the US Military, thanks to multiple combat tours in Iraq and Afghanistan. Soldiers are either unfit for duty and being medically discharged, or being retained but with significant limits on their ability to serve. Even beyond combat deployments, an infantryman's career spent jumping out of planes, marching for miles with a heavy load, kicking down doors and such wears on the body. Some manage to transfer to less physical positions, but others find they just can't stay in anymore due to cumulative injuries and wear and tear. This goes double for those in special forces.
- Several of the rules in Mixed Martial Arts seem to have the intended effect of mitigating this — for example, the lack of a standing count in MMA as well as referee stoppages (a referee is to stop a fight where a fighter is incapable of or is not "intelligently defending" himself or herself), as well as mandatory medical suspensions (in North American states where the sport is sanctioned). However, as the sport is so young there's only a few fighters who are anywhere near old enough to show this effect... although some of those from the "Dark Ages" of MMA, such as Gary Goodridge, have shown this trope to a disturbing effect.
- Dana White's success in actually getting a health insurance company to cover MMA fighters under contract with the UFC is seen as a triumphant step in mitigating this. Many fighters would actually go into a fight injured so they'd get coverage after the fight was done (UFC already would pay fighters for medical expenses as the result of a fight), which obviously would put them at tremendous risk of aggravating their injuries or gaining new ones as the result of a one-sided beating. But now they can actually be covered for training-related injuries as well, resulting in fighters going into their fight at 100% or as close as possible given the sport, which is a great thing for everyone involved.
- Ken Shamrock's Lion's Den has a lot of its graduates entering the sport as this, due to Training from Hell.
- Jackie Chan had to lower the amount of stunts he does himself because of this. As an example, he used a stunt double where he would go over a ten-foot fence in an alleyway. In his younger days, he would simply jump straight over it or jump up to grab the top of the fence and pull himself over. Now, he has to do a series of wall jumps in the corner to do the stunt because he has injured himself so much that his ankles have fused into maybe three bones.
- American daredevil Evel Knievel was renowned for two things: Real Life Ramp Jumps, and being listed in the Guinness World Records for "most bones broken in a lifetime" (433, including seven times for his back alone).