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David Mittleman
David Mittleman
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A Thin Line: Innocuous Tool Can Be Surprisingly Dangerous

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Linonophobia is the fear of string. Oddly enough, a certain amount of trepidation toward ropes and cables might not be so irrational. While a length of cord might seem completely harmless, it is actually capable of transferring a surprising amount of force and energy – and causing severe injury. A few examples illustrate the destructive power of this everyday product we often take for granted.

In California, a young girl was the victim of an accident that will forever change her life. During the idle moments of a car ride, she let one end of a jump rope trail out the rear window of the vehicle. By an unlikely but terrible quirk of fortune, the end of the rope wrapped around the car’s axle. The rope tightened instantly, cutting through the young girl’s wrist and amputating her hand. The girl is now recovering after an emergency surgery.

This scenario might seem impossibly unique, but our office is helping a client with an eerily similar injury. A young man was enjoying a summer day on the lake with his friends by riding on inflatable tubes towed by personal watercraft (commonly called “jet skis”). While the boy was adjusting the tow rope, the jet ski operator accelerated suddenly. The line snapped taught, and the young man’s wrist was caught in a loop of the rope. In addition to a severe wrist fracture, he suffered a full thickness friction burn.

These two incidents may prompt many of you to recall a tragic event that occurred at a Six Flags amusement park in Kentucky about fifteen months ago. In another unusual accident, a young woman’s feet were cut off when the Superman Tower of Power free-fall ride malfunctioned. The cause of that injury? A cable that apparently snapped, went under the carriage, and wrapped around the young lady’s ankles.

All of these accidents involved an improbable mechanism of injury: rope. Ropes, cables, and cords are so common that most of us fail to see the risks involved in working with or around them. Hopefully none of us will have to suffer these types of injuries to be reminded of its surprising strength.