Boy, girl lose fingers during school tug-of-war game



LOS ANGELES (AP) - Two teenagers whose fingers were severed during a tug-of-war game at a California high school were recovering Tuesday, but it was unclear whether doctors were able to reattach the digits.

The boy and girl, both under age 18, had stable vital signs after undergoing hours of surgery, Los Angeles County-USC Medical Center spokeswoman Rosa Sacca said.

"They're awake and alert. Parents are at their bedsides," she said.

Sacca said she could not release any information on whether surgeons were able to reattach the fingers.

The teens lost four fingers each from their right hand, and the girl also lost the thumb on her left hand, she said.

However, sheriff's Sgt. Jorge Marchena told The Associated Press the girl lost three fingers on one hand and two on another, while the boy lost four fingers from one hand.

The discrepancy could not immediately be resolved.

The girl is a senior and varsity soccer player, and the boy is a football player, the San Gabriel Valley Tribune reported.

They were participating in a lunchtime tug-of-war game on Monday during a Spirit Week celebration at South El Monte High School when they were injured.

The rope was wrapped around the students' hands, and it snapped, amputating their fingers, Eddie Pickett, a supervising dispatcher with the Los Angeles County Fire Department, told NBC News.

No criminal investigation will be done because the injuries were accidental, Marchena said.

"Somehow they got their hands tied up on the rope," he said.

Classes continued Tuesday, with counselors available to help students on the campus, El Monte Union High School District Superintendent Nick J. Salerno said.

"Our whole focus right now is providing support for the kids," Salerno said.

Officials will review all planned Spirit Week activities "that could even possibly have a risk of going wrong," he said.

The district also plans to review policies to see if any need to be changed regarding tug-of-war games.

Salerno said schools have conducted such games for years.

"I've never heard of anything like this happening," he said. "It's unbelievable to me, it's shocking."

Similar injuries have occurred elsewhere.

In 2008, an 8-year-old girl nearly lost four fingers when her hand got tangled in a rope during a tug-of-war in Fergus Falls, Minn. The fingers remained attached by tendons and were reattached.

In 2007, two students at a high school in Parker, Colo., had their right hands partially severed during a tug-of-war at a pep rally.

In 1997, two men had their left arms torn off when a rope snapped during a tug-of-war in Taiwan that involved some 1,600 participants. Doctors managed to reattach the limbs.