How to Avoid Avocado Hand (and a Trip to the ER)

Bon Appétit

In Too Afraid to Ask, we’re answering food-related questions that may or may not give you goosebumps. Today: What is avocado hand?

Alanna Clarke was making breakfast at a friend’s apartment when it happened. It was fall 2022, and the 32-year-old, Paris-based business advisor was cutting a plump avocado. Clarke was chatting with her friend while removing the pit with “a very sharp Swiss knife” when she distractedly “rammed” it through the buttery flesh and into her left palm, right between the index and middle fingers. “I fully collapsed onto the kitchen floor,” she tells me. Clarke had severed a nerve and got hand surgery the next day.

It’s no secret that avocados have risen to superfood stardom over the past decade. Retail sales of avocados in the US amounted to $2.7 billion in 2022, up from $1.1 billion in 2014. Unfortunately, though, it’s not all picturesque grain bowls and lush guacamole out there. Injuries like Clarke’s are now so commonplace that they’ve earned a special term: “avocado hand,” which describes the stab wounds and lacerations sustained while slicing or pitting avocados.

Over the past few years, researchers have penned various medical papers on the phenomenon. And avocado hand has transmuted from kitchen oopsie to legitimate source of concern for surgeons. In some cases the cuts “can be fairly severe,” says Mary Elizabeth Rashid, MD, a hand surgeon at Great Plains Orthopedics in Peoria, Illinois, who’s seen avocado-induced injuries “consistently” over the past several years. And in some cases, like Clarke’s, the consequences can be serious.

How common is avocado hand?

Avocado hand has to be one of the most mockable injuries. Can you imagine showing up to the ER bleeding and clutching your hand dramatically, then admitting to a medical professional that…an avocado dunnit? So many victims feel this shame. “It’s such an embarrassing injury,” says Delaney Vetter, a public relations specialist, who stabbed her hand in college. “I cook a lot so it was extra bad for my ego.” No Meat Required author Alicia Kennedy even has a permanent, taunting reminder of her avocado slip: “a smiley face scar on my left ring finger,” she says.

In 2020, researchers at Emory University branded avocado hand an “epidemic.” They’d estimated that 50,413 avocado-related knife injuries occurred between 1998 and 2017, with a 40% increase between 2013 and 2017. (And those figures don’t include the people too mortified to seek help.)

Unfortunately for me, avocado hand strikes millennial women the hardest. Of the cases the Emory University researchers studied, 80.1% of patients were women and nearly half of them were aged between 23 and 39. The increase in cases, they noted, almost perfectly correlates to the rise in avocado consumption in the US. A study from the Hass Avocado Board also found that the average millennial spent $24.99 on avocados in 2018 (5 percent more than non-millennials).

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Author:Ali Francis |

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