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Holding Your Shoulder Means Injury

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You gonna be okay there, buddy?

A common trope in Manga and Anime (but also in other media) where a character, when injured and no matter what kind of damage they have sustained, will hold one of their shoulders with the opposite hand. For extra dramatic emphasis, the injured may stand hunched over, with the arm attached to the grasped shoulder hanging limply towards the floor.

They may be have been burnt by an explosion, they may have fallen from several meters high, they may have been electrocuted... they will always grasp their shoulder.

It is actually the recommended practice in case of chest trauma (such as a broken rib). To rotate an arm at the shoulder, one uses both the muscles in the limb and the chest muscles. Therefore, holding the shoulder prevents any accidental movement of the arm that can cause additional pain and, possibly, aggravate the injury.

Most of the time, however, it's due to the Law of Conservation of Detail , or Rule of Cool.


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    Anime & Manga 
  • In an episode of Sailor Moon, Sailor Venus has done this too, even though there was no hint of her being hit in the shoulder.
  • Happens from time to time in Sonic X.
  • In Rebuild of Evangelion, Shinji does it after being hit by the abrupt landing of a parachuting girl.
  • In the very last episode of Death Note, Light Yagami was shot in the hands as well as his shoulder, yet he holds his shoulder as he tries to escape. Using his last breaths, he runs away from the warehouse in vain, full of bullets, before collapsing on a desolate staircase and dying alone.
  • In Mobile Suit Gundam 00, Setsuna was shot in the shoulder by Ali al-Saachez when the former refused to hand over his Gundam to Ribbons. He ended up holding onto his injured shoulder until being nursed by Marina.
  • Whenever the nigh-indestructible Inuyasha is injured, he holds his shoulder. In fact, the only time he doesn't hold his shoulder is when he is literally too injured to move.
  • In Berserk Casca holds her shoulder after a victorious battle against Adon, where he shot her in said shoulder with a poison dart, so it's justified.
  • Numerous fighters do this in Dragon Ball Z after a brutal battle. It's most notable with Vegeta, who has a habit of doing this, and it becomes more prominent after he recovers from having his arm broken by Android 18.

    Comic Books 
  • Wonder Woman Vol 1: After Steve Trevor ends up trapped underneath some heavy office furniture full of paperwork he's seen holding his shoulder with his opposite hand.

  • One of Stéphane Pêtre's illustrations in Mort et vie des 26 maréchaux d'Empire depicts Marmont at the battle of Salamanca, holding his left shoulder after having his arm shattered by an English shell.

    Live-Action TV 
  • Forever: After being shot near the end of "New York Kids" Henry holds his other hand over the wounded shoulder, presumably applying pressure to control bleeding.
  • Played straight and justified on NCIS: In the Season 1 finale, Gibbs shoots terrorist Ari Haswari in the shoulder. A year later, in the Season 2 finale, Gibbs identifies a masked terrorist on a security video as Ari by his build and by the fact that he's favoring the same shoulder.
  • In most Star Trek series, no matter where people are shot they tend to limp around holding their shoulders.
    • Star Trek: Deep Space Nine: Chief O'Brien does this a lot. Justified in that once he actually does get shot in his shoulder (luckily by a phaser set on "stun", giving him nothing worse than a temporarily numbed arm). Not to mention the times he dislocates his shoulder while holo-kayaking (which gets Lampshaded every time).
      • This becomes a major plot point in the episode "Inquisition", when Doctor Bashir treats O'Brien for another kayak-induced dislocation during The Teaser. Later on, as Bashir has spent the episode being accused of treason and is currently being vilified by the entire main cast, he desperately grabs O'Brien's shoulder — and is surprised when he doesn't show any pain. When Bashir reminds O'Brien that he hurt his shoulder while playing springball and he just shrugs it off, Bashir then realizes that the man he's talking to is not the real O'Brien and that the situation is not as it appears.
        Bashir: Your's all right.
        O'Brien: Of course it's all right.
        Bashir: But you dislocated it yesterday were playing springball.
        O'Brien: So? It's better now.
        Bashir: You didn't hurt it playing springball. You dislocated it kayaking in the holosuite. You're not Miles.
    • Star Trek: The Next Generation: Captain Picard has also gotten hit in the shoulder. (In that case, he allows himself to take a potentially fatal arrow hit to prove to some pre-industrial aliens that he's not a god, as they've come to believe.)
    • Star Trek: Enterprise: So has Captain Archer (by a 19th-century pistol on a wild-west planet), which barely slows him down.
  • In the Supernatural episode "All Hell Breaks Loose, Part One" (S02, Ep21), this is a Justified Trope as Sam's shoulder was broken in the fight with Jake.

    Video Games 
  • Zero in the Mega Man X and Mega Man Zero series does this when being in a critical low level of health.
  • No matter whether tackled, shot, burned, or exploded, your rudie in Jet Set Radio will skate at their fullest until they're at 10% health, in which they're hunched over with a hand on opposite shoulder.
  • Not the shoulder but used the same way, classic Resident Evil installments had the protagonists hold their abdomens if they were weak (and when close to dying they would limp very slowly).
  • In the Knights of the Old Republic series, characters who have been injured to nigh-Critical Existence Failure (or just got up from Non-Lethal K.O.) limp around with their right hand on their left shoulder until healed—even if they hold a lightsaber or blaster in said hand.
  • In Dynasty Warriors 4 and 5, an enemy officer who retreats upon defeat will usually be holding his shoulder as he says a Defeat Catchphrase.
  • In Friday the 13th: The Game, severely injured counselors will limp while grasping their left shoulder.

    Visual Novels 
  • Serves as a both subtle clue to The Reveal and the final piece of the puzzle in the last case of the first Ace Attorney game. As Phoenix and Maya go up against feared prosecutor Manfred von Karma to prove Edgeworth's innocence, you'll notice that whenever von Karma becomes distressed, he clutches at his left shoulder. It seems like nothing...until the moment the two of them deduce that he was the one who shot Gregory Edgeworth, Edgeworth's father, fifteen years ago in the DL-6 case; Edgeworth threw the gun to defend his father, and immediately after it fired, he heard an ear-piercing scream and promptly passed out. But the one who was shot wasn't his father, like Edgeworth's been fearing ever since, but von Karma, who was standing outside the elevator in which the fight occured — the bullet pierced the door and lodged itself in his shoulder. After the elevator doors opened, von Karma promptly picked up the gun and shot Gregory to get revenge for the penalty he incurred on von Karma's otherwise spotless legal record by exposing his underhanded tactics. In order to keep the true nature of Gregory's murder a total secret and leave no trace of his presence, von Karma left the bullet in his shoulder for years. Von Karma admits to having been shot but claims that the bullet in his shoulder is unrelated to DL-6, but to put the nail in von Karma's coffin, Phoenix and Maya pull out both the bullet that was extracted from Gregory's heart and demand that von Karma's bullet be removed so they can prove that they came from the same gun with the ballistic markings. Cue an epic Villainous Breakdown as von Karma finally realizes that he's lost.
  • If he dies in Your Turn to Die, Sou Hiyori is seen holding his shoulder before succumbing to his wounds.


  • SCP Foundation: SCP-674 is a Nintendo gun that affects people on television, altering what's shown onscreen afterwards and the shooter's mind (but not in reality: the Foundation is considering using it as a simulation of what would happen if world leaders were assassinated). One researcher tried using it to kill Captain Kirk, but the shots either hits redshirts or hit him in the shoulder. The researcher disappeared when Spock pulled a Reverse the Polarity on a phaser.

    Western Animation 
  • In The Legend of Korra:
    • Bolin holds his shoulder after taking a hit during a pro-bending match. Justified, however, since he did get hit in the shoulder.
    • Tenzin holds his shoulder after taking a number of hits in season 3. Since the beating he took was very brutal, he probably has a few cracked ribs.

    Real Life 
  • When John F. Kennedy and Texas governor John Connally were shot on November 22, 1963, they were rushed to Parkland Hospital in Dallas along with the rest of the presidential motorcade. Vice President Lyndon Johnson was spotted entering the hospital holding his shoulder, giving speculation that he had been injured in the shooting. His wife, Claudia "Ladybird" Johnson, told reporters that the Vice President was fine and was not injured.