What is an ‘avocado hand’ injury and why is it so common?

A man cutting an avocado in his kitchen (Getty Images) (Getty Images)
A man cutting an avocado in his kitchen (Getty Images) (Getty Images)

Hand surgeons are seeing a lot more avocado-related hand injuries.

According to research, thousands of people slice their hands and fingers annually while cutting avocados primarily between April and July. Surgeons have seen these injuries so often that they have begun to call them “avocado hand” injuries, due to the injury typically occurring while cutting an avocado.

People lose their grip on the avocado and accidentally slice their palms or fingers, doctors have warned. When this happens, there’s a high likelihood of people accidentally severing their nerves or tendons. However, people also tend to stab themselves in the hand as they attempt to use the knife tip to remove the avocado pit.

In 2020, Emory University professor of orthopedic surgery Eric Wagner and his team published a study on the phenomenon, finding that more than 50,000 people in the United States went to emergency rooms seeking treatment for avocado-related knife wounds between 1998 and 2017.

“I’ve treated people who’ve cut off a finger while slicing an avocado,” Dr Wagner explained to the Washington Post. “Cutting an avocado seems so harmless, but we’ve seen some pretty bad injuries from it. By far and away the most injuries I’ve seen are from avocado injuries.”

Wagner adds that he believes that these injuries become more frequent during April through July due to people cooking and barbecuing outside for social occasions, which may lead to more carelessness. The hand surgeon noted: “A lot of the people I see were at a family event when it happened and alcohol was involved.”

Avocado-related injuries have increased sharply over time, coinciding with the meteoric rise in popularity that the fruit experienced throughout the past two decades. Only 3,143 cases requiring emergency room visits were reported between 1998 and 2002, but this rate experienced a ninefold increase between 2013 and 2017, in which 27,059 emergency cases were reported.

Another study from the American Journal of Health Behavior found that about two percent of all consumer product-related injuries reported to the federal government were caused by avocados.

“That doesn’t seem like a lot, but it’s one in every 50 knife injuries,” study author Matthew E Rossheim, an associate professor at the University of North Texas School of Public Health, told the outlet. “It’s shocking how many ER department visits are related to avocado hand cutting injuries.”

If you want to avoid injury while cutting an avocado, Dr Wagner noted that you shouldn’t cut the avocado while holding it in the palm of your hand, which is especially risky. He also added that people should try to remember to cut away from their hands and fingers so they won’t end up in the blade’s path and accidentally get cut.