The finger-severing tug-of-war incident


Body parts are often ripped off on TV and in video games  — not during a real-life tug-of-war match.

As bizarre as it sounds, that’s precisely what happened last Monday to two Los Angeles teenagers in a Spirit Week event gone wrong. With roughly 40 kids pulling, the rope snapped and tore off multiple fingers during a lunchtime tug-of-war staged to boost campus spirit at South El Monte High School.

Four fingers from a male student’s right hand and four fingers from a female student’s right hand, plus the thumb on her left hand, were amputated, Los Angeles County supervising fire dispatcher Eddie Pickett told NBC News.

The students, both 18, underwent surgery to reattach their fingers the same day. The girl who lost her fingers is a varsity soccer player and the boy is a football player, according to the San Gabriel Valley Tribune.

Pickett said the amputations occurred because the rope was wrapped around the students’ hands, instead of just being grasped in their hands. He told NBC News that the extra force caused the rope to snap, resulting in the injuries.

It’s shocking to realize that this actually happened. I mean, who knew this was even possible? If one of the teens had wrapped the rope around their stomach, does that mean they could have been cut in half and died instantaneously?

Perhaps it just goes to show that literally anything in life can be dangerous under the right circumstance. This tragedy shouldn’t scare school districts worldwide from eliminating tug-of-wars; rather, it’s a wake-up call to be cautious about anything  — regardless of how trivial it may seem — that could lead to injury.

Tell participants they cannot wrap the rope around their hands, especially if a large group is partaking in the activity. Heck, mandate them to sign waiver forms about the freak possibility of injury, just don’t eliminate a game that has literally been around forever.

Years ago, did I ever wrap the rope around my hands? Don’t remember, yet they were always beet red and burning afterward. Have kids wrapped the rope around their hands, for example, during the annual Survivor Camp put on by Yelm Police Department? Probably.

The point is that freak accident goes to show the rope should never be wrapped around any part of the body, because it’s better to be safe than sorry. Then again, nobody could have known of the dire consequences.

Or could they have? Similar injuries have occurred elsewhere, according to the Associated Press.

In 2008, an 8-year-old girl almost lost four fingers when her hand got tangled in the rope of a tug-of-war in Fergus Falls, Minn. Her fingers remained attached by tendons and were reattached. In 2007, two high school students in Parker, Colo., had their right hands partially severed during a tug-of-war at a pep rally. And in 1997, two men had their left arms torn off when a rope snapped during a tug-of-war in Taiwan that involved nearly 1,600 participants.

Fortunately, doctors managed to reattach their arms, the AP reported.

Those L.A. high-schoolers are still likely dazed and confused over what transpired. Losing multiple fingers over a traditionally fun game must be traumatic; however, look on the bright side. Their limbs were reattached and whether or not their hand makes a full recovery, at least it is in one piece.

In this case, the “time heals old wounds” saying fits well. Hopefully they won’t let the fateful tug-of-war be a defining moment.

As the surgery heals, it will allow them to face their fears and do something that may be furthest from their mind: a rematch.


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