Is tug-of-war a lethal game? Yes, it is.

Too many times the most underestimated of things prove to be most fatal – be it ants that kill over 30 people a year, or a sting ray whose stab to the chest proved fatal for a man accustomed to handling saltwater crocodiles that weigh approximately a 1000kg. Here is one more wolf-in-a-sheep’s-skin of exercise that continues to elude the radar – the game of tug-of-war.

The extent of injuries (and the frequency at which it occurs) is quite insane, so much so that there is a designated organisation – Tug of War International Federation – that regulates the rules to follow to prevent accidents when participating in this dangerous sport.

Flout them, and this happens-

On 25 October 1997 a mass tug-of-war contest was held in Taipei in celebration of Retrocession Day (the 52nd anniversary of the end of the Japanese colonial rule in Taiwan). Over 1,600 participants exerted an estimated 80,000 kg or more of force on a 5-cm thick nylon rope designed to withstand only 26,000 kg.

Within seconds the rope snapped, tearing off with it the left arms from below the shoulders of the two men – Yang Chiung-ming and Chen Ming-kuo – standing first on each side. The severing of their limbs was believed to have been caused by sheer rebounding force of the broken rope rather than the men’s having wrapped the rope around their arms, as was sometimes reported. The victims were taken to Mackay Memorial Hospital and underwent seven hours of microsurgery to reattach their arms.

Forty other people suffered injuries as well, including ambassadors from Costa Rica, Guatemala and Nicaragua – some quite serious, according to the medical report:

“The most devastating injury, described in this report, comprised liver and spleen rupture with C5-6 spinal cord injury as the initial presentations. A bilateral brachial plexus injury was also found in the subsequent investigation.”

As a result, calls were put out for Taipei’s Mayor, Chen Shui-bian, to step down. Ultimately, several of the mayor’s staff members were impeached, and all medical expenses were paid for out of the officials’ pockets.

About time this sport is banned from P.T. class!

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