This question has been nagging at me as I've been reading some Batman comics for the first time. I cross-referenced my interpretation of various things we see her doing with a very informative Wikipedia article (Spinal Cord Injury), and came to a few conclusions.

Clearly, her paralysis affected only her legs. She obviously had use of her arms, and I believe there's plenty of canon evidence that she twisted around in her chair, so she had control of her trunk and abdominal muscles.

The damage (at least to her motor control) was clearly untreatable by conventional medical means (the procedure that she underwent in the New 52 continuity was, I believe, considered experimental). Otherwise, I have to believe that Commissioner Gordon and/or Bruce would have done everything possible to help her recover. It is, however, unclear to me how much sensory function she had in her legs.

Based on the original panel in The Killing Joke, I don't believe she should have been paralyzed at all: the bullet appeared to hit her in the hip, not remotely close to the spine. However, it is possible that the bullet ricocheted off her hip bone; I don't know enough about gunshot wounds to say for certain.

So my question is in the title, but there are a few specific things I'm particularly interested in:

  1. How much motor control did Barbara have in her legs? Could she move them at all (for example, at the hip but not at the knee)?
  2. How much sensory function did she have in her legs?
  3. (A somewhat broader question) Was there any medical, or pseudo-medical, description of her injury?
  • 2
    Are we completely ignoring the fact that she just, um, got better? wnyc.org/i/620/350/80/photologue/photos/…
    – Valorum
    Aug 4, 2014 at 18:32
  • I'm aware that Barbara recovered in the new continuity. I dislike the New 52 Bat-family series for various reasons, and personally prefer to pretend that it doesn't exist. However, since it is canon, I've edited my question to reference her past condition. Also, thanks for the picture; it helped answer at least one of my questions (she couldn't feel anything in her legs) Aug 4, 2014 at 19:05

1 Answer 1


This (cropped) panel from the New 52 reboot of Batgirl answers all three of your questions.

enter image description here

I'll take them in reverse order

3) Her medical condition is described as being an "L1 injury, first lumbar of the spinal cord". Someone with that sort of injury would expect to suffer a loss of

"motor and sensory from spinal region of L1 to all levels below. There is also a loss of bladder, bowel, and sexual sensation."

2) The panel makes it clear that she

"couldn't move or feel her legs"

1) Which confirms that she has no motor control or feeling in her legs or any point below the L1 verterbra. Any twisting would come from her trunk rather than her hips.

As to why the Joker's gunshot resulted in her suffering a spinal injury, Batgirl #1 offers a reverse-angle view of the incident. While the bullet may have entered from the hip, it definitely seems to have exited through her back.

Killing Joke
enter image description here

Batgirl #1
enter image description here

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