On Monday, two students at South El Monte High School tragically lost their fingers during a game of tug-o-war for Spirit Week homecoming celebrations. An unidentified male football player and senior female soccer player are today at Los Angeles County-USC Medical Center, where doctors are trying to reattach their fingers.
Beyond the horrible news for these two kids, their families and the school, tug-of-war tragedies are a terrible trend, calling into question the rope-pulling games often used during homecoming activities in the U.S. Tug-o-war has taken the fingers and hands of several young people, and killed two Boy Scouts:
We found these maimings and deaths in a quick Google search of the term “tug-of-war tragedies.”
All cases ended with one or more young people losing fingertips, fingers, whole hands — even their lives.
—In 1995, two Boy Scouts, 9 and 10 years old, died in Frankfurt, Germany after a thumb-thick nylon rope snapped and violently whipped back during a giant tug-of-war. Some 650 peopled tried to win a spot in the Guinness Book of World Records. At least 24 were injured. One dead boy was hit in the face by the rope. The other boy, who survived for two more days, had been trapped under other falling victims.
—In 1978, 200 people were injured in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, and four students lost their fingers to a game of tug-o-war meant to relax students during final exams. The tug-o-war game, using a nylon rope, was an attempt to make the Guinness Book of World Records.
— In 1995, Stanley Dewane Farris, 21, from Chattanooga, Tennessee lost his hand during a company picnic tug-of-war involving 25 people. He had wrapped the rope around his wrist. Valiant efforts by doctors to reattach the hand failed.
Some doctors believe that tug-o-war is dangerous most often when synthetic ropes are used.
As the theory goes, since synthetic rope such as nylon stretches, when it breaks it can result in shock waves that travel down the rope and hit the players hands or bodies with brute force. You may end up with a welt, but you can also lose a hand.
The Weekly could not find a medical professional willing to comment on the history of playful tug-of-wars leading to accidentally severed fingers and hands.
If any medical professionals have studied this sad and bizarre phenomenon, please comment below on whether any studies or data exist about problems caused by using synthetic ropes during tug-of-war. We'll update the information as it comes in.