How Does TV Action Hero Jack Reacher Heal So Fast?


March 2, 2022 — If you’re one of many who have binged the Amazon Prime series Reacher recently — or read the bestselling books by Lee Child — you’ve enjoyed lethal weapon Army veteran Jack Reacher delivering his share of wish-fulfillment vengeance in satisfying ways. Even though the character is 6’5” tall and essentially a slab of muscle (convincingly played by real-life slab of muscle Alan Ritchson), Reacher does indeed bleed.

Of course, Hollywood has a long history of its leading men and women being punched, kicked, stabbed, and shot without any of it slowing them down. (Here, we must pay particular tribute to the courageous Black Knight of Monty Python and the Holy Grail.) Jack Reacher is no different.

We thought it would be interesting to ask some emergency room doctors to compare “Reacher time” versus real-life time for treatment and healing of Reacher’s most notable injuries — and how us non-Reacher mortals can help ourselves heal faster from our own mishaps. The answers kick some butt of their own.

­­Injury: Knife slash across the shoulder blade

It’s a gash that would send any normal person to the ER.

Reacher time: Minutes. A cop cleans it up for him after the fight, asking: “Do you want antibiotics would likely be prescribed,” says Tamara Green, MD, an independent emergency medicine doctor in Maryland. “Reacher is ex-military (and fight prone) so his head injuries, abdominal injuries, broken bones, and even in some cases injuries to major blood vessels. This would require a very extensive workup in the emergency room, with CT scans of nearly the entire body. And even if no serious physical injury exists? Car accidents inflict mental trauma as well.

Injury:Smoke/chemical inhalation

A chemical plant in a warehouse goes up in flames.

Reacher time: He walks out of the building as it explodes behind him. Oh, and in an earlier episode, he apparently had previous severe smoke inhalation while deployed in Iraq and was back on active duty “within 32 hours.”

Real life: Weeks, or more if tissue damage is severe. “Inhalation injuries can result in damage to nose, throat, and lungs due to heat, smoke, or chemicals during a fire,” says Green. “Reacher also had prolonged exposure to the chemicals, which could lead to dizziness, pneumonia. Bottom line: In real life, Reacher would need more than a quick moment to regain his composure.

Reacher’s potential healing secrets? Physical fitness, training, and clean living

Reacher has decades of military training and is a combat vet. As such, he simply isn’t hurt as severely as someone less fit, says Green.

“Reacher does deflect a lot of direct blows and does the majority of hitting versus getting hit, displacing some of the force hitting his body to prevent injuries, she says, although she is worried about the repeated headbutting.

“This could be a problem for the character later in life, leading to inflammation, which can make the healing process take longer,” explains Piramzadian. “This is because alcohol consumption thins your blood, which makes it flow faster and accumulate around injured areas.”

  • Thank your mom and dad: “Differences in the cells that give skin its resilience and strength during wound repair may explain why individuals heal differently,” says Piramzadian.