Los Angeles Teens Lose Fingers after Playing Tug-of-War

February 6, 2013

A boy and a girl underwent several hours of surgery after their fingers became severed during a schoolyard tug-of-war game. According to a news report in The Associated Press, a simple length of rope tore off the fingers of the two teens during the game, which was organized at South El Monte High School to boost campus spirit. The boy and girl had stable vital signs and doctors were trying to reattach their fingers.

Schools have conducted such games for years, but officials say they have not heard of similar incidents. South El Monte High School officials said they are reevaluating their activities and policies after the incident. The teens lost four fingers each from their right hand and the girl also lost the thumb on her left hand. The girl was reportedly a senior and varsity soccer player while the boy is a football player. The rope was wrapped around the students' hands at the time and it snapped cutting off their fingers.

Other Similar Incidents

There have apparently been similar incidents in the past. In 2008, an 8-year-old Minnesota girl nearly lost four fingers when her hand got tangled in a rope during a tug-of-war game. In 2007, two Colorado high school students had their right hands partially severed during a tug-of-war at a pep rally. Also, in 1997, two men had their left arms amputated when a rope snapped during a tug-of-war in Taiwan that involved 1,600 participants. In that case, doctors were able to reattach the limbs.

Important Considerations

In this particular case, it appears that the teens had the rope wrapped around their hands, which caused the fingers to become amputated. There are a number of questions here. Who organized the game? Were the students being properly supervised by teachers at the time? Was the rope appropriate or strong enough for the game of tug-of-war? Was one side overpowered by the other?

These are just some questions that must be answered in such cases. As a Los Angeles personal injury lawyer who represents victims of serious injuries, in my opinion, you can never be too careful whether at home, in your car or on the playground. It is important that schools in general review their activities and determine the dangers involved even something as simple as a game. These types of accidents can be prevented if teachers and supervisors on school grounds remain vigilant at all times, anticipate problems that may arise and take the necessary safety steps.

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