Hand Hazards

Appears in the July 2023 issue.

A Naperville orthopedic surgeon offers tips for avoiding injuries this summer

An illustration of a woman mowing the lawn

Jonathan Tueting admits that his decision to become a surgeon— specifically, an orthopedic surgeon focused on shoulders, elbows, and hands—was based largely on his affinity for playing with tools with his dad growing up.

Orthopedic surgeon Jonathan Tueting
Orthopedic surgeon Jonathan Tueting

“We have really cool tools in the operating room to help put people back together, and that’s ultimately why I decided on orthopedics,” says the Naperville resident, who spent more than a decade at the University of Wisconsin–Madison before coming back home to the Chicago area five years ago to practice at Rush Copley Medical Center and Rush Castle Orthopaedics & Sports Medicine in Aurora. “Hands in particular are really complex, which makes it fun because it’s challenging. And people with injured hands can have significant alterations in their life, so being able to help them regain lost function is what brings me the most joy. That’s why I do what I do.”

Somewhat ironically, Tueting notes that playing with tools is also one of the many ways in which people can wind up with hand injuries, particularly at this time of year, when their pursuits become more active, which is why he has some cautionary tips about staying hand-safe this summer—including avoiding one bizarre injury that has become increasingly common.

Mind the Mower

Tueting says that while the blade-related hand injuries he sees tend to follow the change of seasons from winter (snowblowers) to summer (lawnmowers), the underlying issue is basically the same—trying to unclog something (snow or clumping wet grass, respectively) from sharp, rotating blades that may not be fully stopped.

Fireworks illustration

Skip the Sparklers (and Anything With Fuses)

Any hand surgeon who has worked through at least one summer would likely offer the same advice that Tueting does when it comes to fireworks: Just don’t. According to the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission, more than 11,500 fireworks-related injuries were treated in U.S. hospital emergency departments in 2021—with injured hands and fingers being the most frequent of those cases (31 percent). Leave the fireworks to the experts.

Grilling tools illustration

Hot Stuff

Cooking outside is a great way to enjoy the summer weather, but, of course, grills tend to feature leaping flames and extremely hot surfaces, often resulting in hand burns. Getting out of one’s kitchen can be a nice change of pace, but Tueting says basic grilling safety awareness—and a good pair of oven mitts—should always be invited to the barbecue.

Game Over

With summer sports come summer hand injuries, ranging from finger trauma from volleyball spikes to divot-induced wrist problems in golf. Tueting recommends learning proper technique, practicing moderation to avoid overuse injuries, and doing some functional strength training to help stave off such issues.

Avocado illustration

Avocad-Oh No!

“Avocadohand” is a year-round problem that tends to ramp up with the cookouts and gatherings of summertime—Tueting estimates he sees at least one case of a month. It’s pretty much what it sounds like—between their odd shape, smooth pit, and unpredictable firmness, avocados can be a challenge to slice safely and, thus, have become one of the produce department’s main culprits for hand injuries. “There’s a whole cottage industry now of devices to use to pit an avocado without putting a knife through your hand,” Tueting says. “But most of all, it’s just common sense—put the avocado on a flat surface to cut it instead of holding it in your hand, and once it’s time to take out the pit, switch to a spoon.”


Photos: Rush Castle Orthopaedics & Sports Medicine. Art: iStock