Winded (Solar Plexus Syndrome)

Abdominal pain in athletes

Solar plexus syndrome (being winded) refers to what happens when you are subjected to a sudden forceful impact to the abdomen. It is very common in contact sports like rugby and causes breathing difficulties.


  • Abdominal pain is the main symptom. It is often described as having the wind knocked out of you.
  • Difficulty breathing.
  • Anxiety or panicking.
  • The symptoms usually pass in 10-15 minutes as your diaphragm relaxes and recovers from the blow.

What happens when you get winded?

Being winded is caused by a sudden blow or impact to the stomach or sometimes from a fall onto your back. If you have been winded, you will have difficulty breathing deeply and possibly difficulty breathing at all. You may be anxious or feel panicked about not being able to breathe properly.

Respiratory system

Specifically, a blow to this area which results in a winding causes compression of the nerves behind the stomach – the solar plexus. This causes the diaphragm to contract and go into spasm.

Being winded is most common in contact sports such as Rugby and may also happen in ball sports such as soccer or where the athlete falls to the floor such as in martial arts.

Mechanics of breathing

The diaphragm is the muscle which sucks air into the lungs. As a result, it is difficult to breathe in and out properly. Once the diaphragm relaxes, breathing becomes easier.

Winded - breathing mechanics

When we inhale the intercostal muscles (between the ribs) and diaphragm contract to expand the chest cavity.

The diaphragm flattens and moves downwards and the intercostal muscles move the rib cage upwards and out.

This increase in size decreases the internal air pressure and so air from the outside (at a now higher pressure than inside the thorax) rushes into the lungs to equalise the pressures.

More on anatomy of breathing

Treatment & recovery

If you get winded then it should pass naturally on its own. However, there are some things you can do to reduce your pain and discomfort.

Sit in a crouched position – If you are Winded, sit in a crouched position as this helps the muscles to relax.

Stay calm – Try to stay calm and take slow deep breaths.

The condition should improve within 10-15 minutes. If not, seek medical attention in case of further injury such as a fractured rib or collapsed lung.

More on causes of abdominal & chest pain:


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