Don’t laugh, especially while you are attempting to cut an avocado, because your knife might slip and cut deep into the tender meat of your hand, potentially severing a tendon and requiring surgery and weeks of rehabilitation.
Avocados have boomed in popularity lately, a development that’s been detrimental to Mexican forestlands, for instance. Another consequence of increased avocado love, suggests the Times of London: hand injuries. That publication spoke to several organizations who expressed serious concern about what they see as a growing problem. Simon Eccles, secretary of the British Association of Plastic, Reconstructive and Aesthetic Surgeons and former president of the plastic surgery section of the Royal Society of Medicine, went so far as to suggest warning labels.
“People do not anticipate that the avocados they buy can be very ripe and there is minimal understanding of how to handle them. We don’t want to put people off the fruit but I think warning labels are an effective way of dealing with this. It needs to be recognisable. Perhaps we could have a cartoon picture of an avocado with a knife, and a big red cross going through it?”
Lest you write this off as a purely British phenomenon, please note that America is absolutely not immune. Recently, the New York Times was moved to provide instructions for the safe slicing of this popular food:
These characteristics have earned the avocado a reputation as one of the most dangerous foods to cut. Just recently, the wife of a colleague here at The New York Times was slicing an avocado when she suffered a cut so deep she had to be taken to the emergency room.
Medical professionals and hospitals in the United States don’t track kitchen injuries by ingredient, but anecdotally, doctors say they see a number of avocado-related cooking injuries annually — enough to notice.
Jezebel spoke to Dr. Nader Paksima, an orthopedic surgeon at NYU Langone’s Hand Center, who called it “one of our classic injuries,” but hasn’t necessarily seen it spiking: “I personally haven’t noticed any kind of a trend, from year to year, because they do pretty much come in all the time,” he said. Rather, “it’s seasonal. All the sudden, it’s Cinco de Mayo, people are making a bunch of guacamole, and then you’ll see a couple.”
“It’s like anything else, they come in waves,” he added. “All the sudden you’ll see three or four in a row and it seems like there’s an epidemic.” Minor cases can make do with a quick stitch-up at urgent care, but Dr. Paksima sees the most serious cases, the ones that cut a nerve or a tendon, which are very serious indeed. “It can be a major big deal,” he explained. If you lacerate a nerve, you’ll need outpatient surgery and it could take months before you get feeling back in your fingertip. Cutting a tendon could likely mean the inability to bend your finger for a time and requires weeks of therapy and possibly time out from work.
Dr. Paksima also sees similar wounds from people making the same mistake with bagels, as well as—believe it or not—people trying to separate frozen hamburger patties. (“A lot of the time people will use a butter knife, thinking it’s safer, but there’s enough force that when it slips like that—pow,” he explained.)
He suggests that, once you’re done peeling the avocado, you put down your knife and carve out the pit with a spoon. “It’s just a momentary lapse in concentration, is what it takes.” And now you can’t say you weren’t warned.