The Department of Health and Human Services says disturbing scenes like this can be prevented if Americans take the correct precautions before a sucker punch hits.

WASHINGTON—Warning that millions of citizens across the country are currently at the highest level of risk, a study released Tuesday by the Department of Health and Human Services revealed that the vast majority of Americans are not adequately prepared for a sucker punch to the gut.

Agency officials determined that as much as three quarters of the American populace, or some 240 million individuals, are fully exposed and vulnerable to the threat of an acquaintance or fellow bar patron coming out of nowhere, placing one hand on their shoulder, and then drilling them square in the stomach with a closed fist.

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“According to our findings, the average American has not taken even the most basic precautions for the possibility that someone might wait until their guard is down and land a sudden, solid blow directly to their gut,” HHS Secretary Sylvia Mathews Burwell said, noting that citizens nationwide would likely be caught unaware and left completely devastated should a sucker punch hit in the near future. “Many people seem to believe that a sucker punch won’t happen to them, or that if it does, it won’t be particularly harmful. But the unfortunate reality is that a sucker punch can strike anyone at any time without warning, and it can be one of the most awful events of one’s life, often leaving victims doubled over and grimacing for minutes on end.”

“That is why it’s absolutely crucial that citizens develop a comprehensive preparedness and recovery action plan immediately,” she continued. “Because by the time someone slugs you in the belly, it’s already too late.”

Burwell stated that it was critical for citizens of all ages and backgrounds to understand the dangers of taking one right in the breadbasket, and noted that the agency was stepping up its efforts to provide information to citizens on how to protect themselves. First and foremost, Burwell said, citizens must stay informed about any person who might be poised to wing around and sock them in the first place. Additionally, she stressed that Americans should heed all credible warnings from anyone who threatens to whale on them, and instructed U.S. residents to make all efforts to get away from a potential jab to the abdomen or solar plexus before it can inflict any damage.

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However, should any American find him or herself in the unavoidable path of a sucker punch, according to Burwell, that person should make an effort to shield the vulnerable midsection by any means necessary, typically by clenching one’s abdominal muscles and gritting one’s teeth. Burwell stressed that citizens should then wait it out in place, advising individuals to hold their aching stomach and call the puncher a “fucking dick” until help arrives.

“We want people to recognize that this is a problem that needs to be taken seriously. The last thing you should do is ignore the possibility of a sucker punch and turn your back on the situation,” Burwell said. “As that just leaves you exposed to a swift clock right to the back of the head.”

While HHS officials called the study’s results “worrisome” and “disconcerting,” they noted that their findings were in line with other recent reports, including a 2011 survey that classified over half of Americans as “highly vulnerable” to being cold-cocked in the jaw and found that some 71 percent of citizens were entirely unprepared for a firm knee to the tailbone.

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Moreover, a FEMA study from last year reportedly found that as many as nine in 10 Americans had no plan in place should someone get down on all fours immediately behind them as a second individual pushed them backward.

“We hope that through education, Americans can learn to recognize the risks posed by sucker punches and take the necessary safety measures to ensure they are sufficiently prepared should the unthinkable happen,” said Burwell, noting that for many Americans, it wasn’t a question of if they would be sucker punched, but when. “If you recognize a sucker punch early enough, there’s a good chance you can dodge the blow entirely and come back with a haymaker or a full nelson of your own.”

“We will never be able to fully stop sucker punches from happening,” she continued. “But as long as everyone is properly prepared, it’s possible that, in the future, no American will be left sputtering and gasping on the floor in the fetal position.”

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