Super Bowl preparations are well underway as millions get ready to tune into the big game on Sunday, which likely means thousands are looking up recipes for tasty homemade guacamole. But as aspiring chefs take a knife to the beloved avocado, doctors warn that the risk of serious injury is likely to go up.
In fact, 50,413 avocado-related knife injuries occurred from 1998 to 2017, with the majority of incidents falling into the years after 2013, according to Emory University researchers. Injuries can result in long-term nerve damage or other lasting issues depending on where the knife cuts.
“While one, usually non-dominant hand holds the avocado, the other hand, often dominant, holds the knife used to peel the skin off,” Dr. Ivica Ducic, board-certified plastic surgeon and medical director for nerve repair company Axogen, told Fox News via email. “If the knife slips while cutting, it can injure the hand or fingers that holds the avocado.”
Ducic said depending on the direction of the knife tip, the width and depth of such an injury can vary.
“When this happens, sensory nerves in the hand or finger can be severely injured and hand or finger numbness will follow,” he said. “This numbness will persist if nerve injury is left untreated, and a good number of patients with this type of nerve injury can also develop a painful neuroma at the site of the nerve injury, so both numbness and pain can coexist. Less often, but still possible, motor nerves controlling hand or finger motion can be injured, affecting range of motion of the hand or fingers.”
And while some may be tempted to reach for a special avocado peeling and slicing contraption, Ducic said no matter the device people should avoid abrupt or forceful hand movements while cutting.
“Direct visual, slow and controlled hand coordination should help minimize injuries,” he said.
Once you’ve safely made it through the peeling stage, removing the pit may poise a whole host of challenges for some.
“There may always be a debate about the ‘correct’ way to remove a pit,” Ducic said. “While some people slice layers of the avocado until they encounter the pit, others might cut it in half, then use a spoon to remove the pit. A spoon is the safest way to avoid knife slips, but as we know, depending on softness and maturity of the avocado, the spoon maneuver doesn’t always work.”
Despite the best preparations, someone somewhere is going to have an accidental slip resulting in injury. Ducic said those who unfortunately find themselves in an injury situation should seek “prompt and professional help.”
“Most patients seek help first at the emergency room, but suturing an open wound often does not take care of deeper and more serious injuries,” he said. “If numbness persists despite a closed wound, and /or if in the future pain at the injury site evolves, patients would benefit from evaluation by a nerve surgeon that can assess the extent of nerve injury.”
Ducic said a nerve surgeon would also be able to remove a damaged nerve segment and repair it with a nerve graft if necessary.