Doctors are warning that a growing number of people are injuring themselves while slicing avocados.

In the last few years, people in the U.S. and Europe have been consuming more avocado and surgeons say that a large number of amateur chefs are getting injuries and trips to the emergency room because of the fruit. Surgeons call the injury “avocado hand,” and it includes stab and slash injuries that result from poor attempts to penetrate the avocado’s hard outer casing with a sharp knife before finding the resistant inner seed.

Avocado Hand
Some avocado hand cases may even result in surgery. Image credit: Doring.

‘Avocado hand’ can cause permanent damage to the hand

The “avocado hand” was investigated by surgeons from UK’s British Association of Plastic, Reconstructive and Aesthetic Surgeons. The researchers are calling for safety labels outside avocados to decrease the number of patients injured in the task. They noted that many of “avocado hand” cases result in serious nerve and tendon injuries. In some of these cases patients require to undergo surgery, and according to the study, some of them never recover the full use of their hand.

Avocado Hand
In New Zealand over 300 people have sued for compensation following avocado injuries in the past five years. Image credit: @sariniiii_85 via Instagram.

“People do not anticipate that the avocados they buy can be very ripe and there is minimal understanding of how to handle them,” said Simon Eccles, secretary of the association and former president of the plastic surgery section of the Royal Society of Medicine, according to The Times. “We don’t want to put people off the fruit but I think warning labels are an effective way of dealing with this.”

Eccles said that the labels need to be recognizable for people, and he recommended a cartoon picture of an avocado with a knife and a big red cross going through it.

The study does not specify the total economic loss resulting from “avocado hand,” but it has become a common injury in several countries. In 2012 Meryl Streep was photographed with a bandaged hand after she cut it with a knife while trying to slice an avocado.

The New York Times has even published an article on the subject, titled “How to cut an avocado without cutting yourself,” as the wife of one of the staff members had to be treated for a deep wound.

Similar wounds have been seen in people opening bagels or hamburgers

Eccles said he treats between three to four patients every week with “avocado hand” at Chelsea and Westminster Hospital in London. The staff at the St. Thomas’ Hospital in London sees avocado hands regularly too, and they claim they are well accustomed to the “post-brunch surgery” on Saturdays.

A woman named Catherine Poust told The Times that she stabbed her hand while slicing an avocado for a brunch with her friends, and when she got to the emergency room found that she was the fourth avocado casualty that day. Diana Grech, another victim of the fruit, sliced a nerve last year, and staff at Leeds General Infirmary told her that they treated at least one avocado-related injury a week.

Avocado Hand
Most of the common accidents occur because people sink the knife through the avocado, expecting the knife to lodge into the stone. However, the stone may be rotten, or people can miscalculate, and as the knife goes through the fruit they can seriously injure their hands. Image credit: Some E Cards.

Jeff Bland, executive chef at Balmoral Hotel in Edinburgh, confirmed that accidents happen because of bad techniques. Bland recommends his chefs to place the avocado flat on a surface, put a hand on top, and then gently make incisions around the stone.

David Shewring, vice president of the British Society for Surgery of the Hand, said that recently the health benefits of avocado had been advocated, and the fruit had an increase in its popularity, which is why a consequent increase in related injuries followed.

The surgeon noted the “correct technique” for de-stoning an avocado and explained that the first step is to wrap the avocado in a towel while leaving the pip -or the stone- out. Then, you must carefully use the edge of a heavy sharp knife to chop into the summit of the soft stone, so that it is slightly buried, and finally, holding the knife, so that the stone is stabilized, use a towel to twist the stone out.

According to Jezebel, in the U.S. there has not been a noticeable spike in avocado-related injuries. Dr. Nader Paksima, an orthopedic surgeon at NYU Langone’s Hand Center, said that it was a classic injury, but mostly seasonal. Meaning, during holidays like Cinco de Mayo, more injuries are expected to occur, as more people are slicing avocados.

“It’s like anything else, they come in waves,” said Paksima, according to Jezebel. “All of the sudden you’ll see three or four in a row and it seems like there’s an epidemic.”

Paksima noted that he has seen similar wounds from people making the same mistake of the “avocado hand”, but with bagels and frozen hamburger patties.

Source: The Times