Man lifts automobile off of victim after accident

Jun 8, 2011

An amazing story from Jackson, where a man lifted a minivan off of another man who had been trapped underneath it when his jack collapsed.

From the Detroit Free Press/Associated Press:

"Authorities say a quick-acting man lifted a minivan off a 50-year-old who was trapped underneath when a jack collapsed in Jackson."

"The Jackson Citizen Patriot reports that 47-year-old Mike Treciak grabbed the Chevrolet Venture by the front, left wheel well and hoisted the vehicle Tuesday afternoon."

"Treciak says two other people helped pull the man out. The fire department says that the man already had been freed by the time rescue crews arrived."

"The man was taken to a hospital for treatment. The fire department says the man was conscious and alert. His name wasn’t released."

"There are plans to nominate Treciak for a life-saving award."

Stories like this one from Jackson refer to a situation sometimes labelled as Hysterical Strength: the sudden emergence of superhuman muscle power in a potentially life-threatening situation. These stories come up every once in a while, but the science behind the phenomenon is disputed.

This article from mentalfloss.com talks about the possible sources of this incredible strength and the problems of trying to prove its cause:

"It’s all about adrenaline. Some believe that on a day-to-day basis we only use a small percentage of our muscles’ capability."

"But adrenaline and noradrenaline, hormones that creates a state of fight-or-flight readiness in stressed humans, have the capability to raise the heart rate, dilate the pupils, increase respiration, slow digestion and, yes, allow muscles to contract more than they would normally."

"So does that mean it’s possible to perform superhuman feats of strength? The evidence is frustratingly thin here — but there’s one example of our muscles’ amazing capabilities that may point to the possibility of hysterical strength, and that’s what happens when our bodies are shocked with electricity."

"You’ve heard of people being thrown across rooms by shocks, or their hands clamping down on live wires so hard they can’t be loosed? It’s not the current that causes it, but our muscles’ reaction to the current. If nothing else, it demonstrates the potential for muscle use that’s not normally available to us."

For those interested in a technical description of what happens when adrenaline is released—which may explain hysterical strength--Discovery Health has this explanation:

"When adrenaline is released by the adrenal medulla -- an interior region of the adrenal glands, which are located just above your kidneys -- it allows blood to flow more easily to your muscles."

"This means that more oxygen is carried to your muscles by the extra blood, which allows your muscles to function at elevated levels. Skeletal muscles -- those attached to bones by tendons -- are activated by electrical impulses from the nervous system."

"When they're stimulated, muscles contract, meaning they shorten and tighten."

"This is what happens when you lift an object, run or throw a punch. Adrenaline also facilitates the conversion of the body's fuel source (glycogen) into its fuel (glucose). This carbohydrate gives energy to muscles, and a sudden burst of glucose also allows muscles to strengthen further."

Which I guess is how Lt. Hightower did it in Police Academy.

-Brian Short, Michigan Radio Newsroom