Hysterical strength

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Hysterical strength is a display of extreme strength by humans, beyond what is believed to be normal, usually occurring when people are in life-and-death situations. Common anecdotal examples include parents lifting vehicles to rescue their children. The extra strength is commonly attributed to increased adrenaline production, though supporting evidence is scarce, and inconclusive when available; research into the phenomenon is difficult, though it is thought that it is theoretically possible.[1]

Extreme strength may occur during excited delirium.[2][3]


The most common anecdotal examples are of parents lifting vehicles to rescue their children, and when people are in life-and-death situations. Hysterical strength can result in torn muscles due to higher mechanical stress.

  • In 1982, in Lawrenceville, Georgia, Tony Cavallo was repairing a 1964 Chevrolet Impala automobile from underneath. The vehicle was propped up with jacks, but it fell. Cavallo's mother, Mrs. Angela Cavallo, lifted the car high enough and long enough for two neighbours to replace the jacks and pull Tony from beneath the car.[4]
  • In 2006, Ivujivik, Quebec, resident Lydia Angiyou saved several children by fighting a polar bear until a local hunter shot it.[5]
  • In 2006, in Tucson, Arizona, Tom Boyle watched as a Chevrolet Camaro hit 18-year-old Kyle Holtrust. The car pinned Holtrust, still alive, underneath. Boyle lifted the Camaro off the teenager, while the driver of the car pulled the teen to safety.[4][6]
  • In 2009, in Ottawa, Kansas, 1.70 m (5 ft 7 in), 84 kg (185 lb) Nick Harris lifted a Mercury sedan to help a 6-year-old girl pinned beneath.[7]
  • In 2009, in Newport, Wales, Donna McNamee, Abigail Sicolo, and Anthony McNamee lifted a 1.1 ton Renault Clio off of an 8-year-old boy.[8]
  • In 2011, in Tampa, Florida, 1.91 m (6 ft 3 in), 134 kg (295 lb) University of South Florida college football player Danous Estenor lifted a 1,600 kg (3,500 lb) car off of a man who had been caught underneath. The man was a tow truck driver who had been pinned under the rear tire of a 1990 Cadillac Seville, which had lurched forward as he worked underneath it. The man suffered only minor injuries.[9]
  • In 2012, in Glen Allen, Virginia, 22-year-old Lauren Kornacki rescued her father, Alec Kornacki, after the jack used to prop up his BMW slipped, pinning him under it. Lauren lifted the car, then performed CPR on her father and saved his life.[10]
  • In 2013, in Oregon, teenage sisters Hannah (age 16) and Haylee (age 14) lifted a tractor to save their father pinned underneath.[11]
  • In 2015, in St. John's, Newfoundland, Nick Williams lifted a four-wheel-drive vehicle to save a young boy pinned beneath its tire.[12]
  • In 2015, in Vienna, Virginia, Charlotte Heffelmire lifted a GMC pick-up truck to free her father from underneath.[13]


Early experiments showed that adrenaline increases twitch, but not tetanic force and rate of force development in muscles.[14] It is questionable, however, as to whether adrenaline, released from the adrenal medulla into the venous circulation, can reach the muscle quickly enough in order to be able to cause such an effect in the midst of a crisis. It may be that noradrenaline released from sympathetic nerve terminals directly innervating skeletal muscle[15] has more of an effect over the timescale of seconds.

Amphetamine and other stimulants are used by some athletes for their psychological and performance-enhancing effects.[16][17] In competitive sports, this form of use is prohibited by anti-doping regulations.[16] In healthy people at oral therapeutic doses, amphetamine has been shown to increase physical strength,[16][18] acceleration,[16][18] stamina,[16][19] and endurance,[16][19] while reducing reaction time.[16] Amphetamine exerts its effects in humans primarily as a releasing agent of dopamine and norepinephrine in the central nervous system, and secondarily via inhibition of reuptake of noradrenaline and dopamine, similar to methylphenidate and bupropion.[18][19]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Ransom Riggs (25 March 2011). "Does Hysterical Strength Really Exist?". mentalfloss.com.
  2. ^ "White Paper Report on Excited Delirium Syndrome" Archived October 11, 2010, at the Wayback Machine, ACEP Excited Delirium Task Force, American College of Emergency Physicians, September 10, 2009
  3. ^ Sztajnkrycer, Matt D.; Baez, Amado A. "Cocaine, Excited Delirium and Sudden Unexpected Death" (PDF). Retrieved 29 November 2012.
  4. ^ a b Clark, Josh. "How can adrenaline help you lift a 3,500-pound car?", 11 December 2007. HowStuffWorks.com. Retrieved 13 November 2008.
  5. ^ Jane George (2006-02-17). "Polar bear no match for fearsome mother in Ivujivik". Nunatsiaq News / Nortext Publishing Corporation (Iqaluit). Retrieved 2009-01-01.
  6. ^ Huicochea, Alexis. "Man lifts car off pinned cyclist", Arizona Daily Star, 28 July 2006. Retrieved 21 November 2010.
  7. ^ Associated Press. "Kansas dad somehow lifts car off 6-year-old girl", 18 December 2009. news.yahoo.com. Retrieved 19 December 2009.
  8. ^ "Neighbours help lift car off boy". 2009-06-04. Retrieved 2018-10-20.
  9. ^ Greg Auman (2011-06-24). "USF Bulls offensive lineman Danous Estenor lifts car to free trapped man". St. Petersburg Times (Tampa Bay, FL).
  10. ^ Newcomb, Alyssa (August 2012). "Superhero Woman Lifts Car Off Dad - ABC News". ABC News. Retrieved 12 January 2016.
  11. ^ "Oregon man pinned under 3,000-pound tractor saved by teen daughters". Fox News. 11 April 2013. Retrieved 12 January 2016.
  12. ^ "Shea Heights hero finds strength to lift vehicle off injured boy". CBC News. 28 September 2015. Retrieved 28 September 2015.
  13. ^ McCrum, Kirstie (11 January 2016). "Teen girl uses 'superhuman strength' to lift burning truck off dad and save family". Mirror. Retrieved 11 January 2016.
  14. ^ Hoh, JF; Rossmanith, GH; Kwan, LJ; Hamilton, AM (1988). "Adrenaline increases the rate of cycling of crossbridges in rat cardiac muscle as measured by pseudo-random binary noise-modulated perturbation analysis". Circulation Research. 62 (3): 452–461. doi:10.1161/01.RES.62.3.452.
  15. ^ Grassi, C; Passatore, M (February 1988). "Action of the sympathetic system on skeletal muscle". Italian Journal of Neurological Sciences. 9 (1): 23–8. PMID 2965685.
  16. ^ a b c d e f g Liddle DG, Connor DJ (June 2013). "Nutritional supplements and ergogenic AIDS". Prim. Care. 40 (2): 487–505. doi:10.1016/j.pop.2013.02.009. PMID 23668655. Amphetamines and caffeine are stimulants that increase alertness, improve focus, decrease reaction time, and delay fatigue, allowing for an increased intensity and duration of training ...
    Physiologic and performance effects
     • Amphetamines increase dopamine/norepinephrine release and inhibit their reuptake, leading to central nervous system (CNS) stimulation
     • Amphetamines seem to enhance athletic performance in anaerobic conditions 39 40
     • Improved reaction time
     • Increased muscle strength and delayed muscle fatigue
     • Increased acceleration
     • Increased alertness and attention to task
  17. ^ Bracken NM (January 2012). "National Study of Substance Use Trends Among NCAA College Student-Athletes" (PDF). NCAA Publications. National Collegiate Athletic Association. Retrieved 8 October 2013.
  18. ^ a b c Parr JW (July 2011). "Attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder and the athlete: new advances and understanding". Clin Sports Med. 30 (3): 591–610. doi:10.1016/j.csm.2011.03.007. PMID 21658550.
  19. ^ a b c Roelands B, de Koning J, Foster C, Hettinga F, Meeusen R (May 2013). "Neurophysiological determinants of theoretical concepts and mechanisms involved in pacing". Sports Med. 43 (5): 301–311. doi:10.1007/s40279-013-0030-4. PMID 23456493.