For a man with no superpowers, the dark knight has set the bar in kicking ass and taking names. He has a reputation as the world’s greatest detective (sorry Sherlock) and a brilliant tactician, but his nights as a masked vigilante on the streets of Gotham are going to catch up to him sooner rather than later. Before he faces irreversible damage (again), Bruce Wayne should consider retirement.
In our society, it is not unusual for an 81-year-old man to be retired, but Batman has had a complicated history when it comes to age. Although he was created in 1939, the DC universe has been reset numerous times. Most depictions of Bruce put him somewhere between his twenties to fifties. At least one analysis estimates him to be 48 years old.
Given his complicated history with Lazarus pits, the Holy Grail, and godly/metahuman intervention, he looks good for his age, but he is mortal. Eventually, Batman will run out of second, third, and fourth chances. His body will fail him.
It is difficult to estimate the damage he has sustained over the years, but we can look to professional athletes for some insight. Although Batman’s trained with the world’s best masters, his nightly activities are like a football player, boxer, and mixed martial artist. He tackles, punches, kicks, runs, swings, climbs, dives, and deflects damage with his arms and legs.
Leaving aside unusual circumstances like being stabbed and shot or having his spine snapped like a twig by a steroid-junkie named Bane, Batman would experience the same injuries as these three sports.
Tackling criminals could lead to shoulder injuries like NFL players experience. Over time, the shoulder may freeze up or cease to function at inopportune times. If he has to dodge an attack by moving laterally on his feet or cutting to the side, he could tear an ACL or PCL, another common football injury. Over time and with repeated injury, Batman would find it difficult to walk.
Batman’s gloves may or may not be padded, but he punches like a boxer. Believe it or not, striking people repeatedly is hard on the hands. Boxers suffer from Boxer’s Fracture and Bennett’s Fracture. The former breaks the bones in the back of the hand while the latter breaks the bone at the base of the thumb. If untreated, these injuries can leave a person with perpetually swollen, arthritic hands. Batman’s ability to search for information on a computer or hold a vial of forensic evidence would diminish significantly.
However, Batman’s fighting is probably most similar to mixed martial arts. Although MMA is a relatively new sport, athletes routinely suffer from hand and knee injuries. They also receive a high number of fractures to the arms, shins, and face. Admittedly, Batman’s body armor will deflect the worse of these injuries, but MMA players have never been struck by cars or trucks, nor have they fallen off the edge of a building. There is only so much body armor can do.
The real problem is concussions. Football players, boxers, and mixed martial artists accrue an impressive number of head injuries. It is one of the most common impairments in all three sports. Repeated concussions can lead to long-term effects, such as memory loss, trouble concentrating, and trouble sleeping. Victims can become irritable and moody (sound familiar?) and traumatic brain injury can lead to depression, something Batman can ill afford given his early childhood trauma.
Finally, there is a link between repetitive brain injury and diagnosis of Lou Gehrig’s disease, which can affect motor functions. People who suffer from the disease may have trouble walking, slur their speech, and experience weakness in hands and legs.
All of this leads to one unavoidable conclusion. If Batman continues his one-man crusade, he will eventually be unable to walk or hold objects. His mental prowess will greatly diminish leaving him with the tactical genius of a low-grade minion for hire. He will no longer solve crimes because he will barely recognize his own name or remember how work the computers in the bat cave.
With increased irritability and depression, he will likely turn on his sidekicks and allies. The bat cave will no longer be a sanctuary for a man on a mission. It will be the place that he is locked away to protect himself and others from further harm.
Time to retire, Bruce.