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Teens Lose Fingers In Game Of Tug-Of-War

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A simple game of tug-of-war ended horribly for two California high school seniors.

During Spirit Week at South El Monte High School outside of Los Angeles, Edith Rodriguez and Pablo Ocegueda were playing tug-of-war when the rope snapped. The rope had wrapped around the hands of Rodriguez and Ocegueda, so when it snapped, several of their fingers were severed.

Rodriguez, a soccer player, and Ocegueda, a football player, were immediately brought into Los Angeles County-USC Medical Center for surgery to reattach their fingers.

Eddie Pickett, a supervising dispatcher with the Los Angeles County Fire Department, told NBC News that the teens lost four fingers on each hand while Rodriguez also lost the thumb on her right hand.

"They were just both in shock, staring at their hands," Jennifer Jiminez, a freshman at South El Monte, told KCBS. "They didn't know what to do."

Nick J. Salerno, Superintendent of El Monte Union High School District, said its schools have been playing tug-of-war for years.

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

Dr. Robert Glatter, an emergency medicine physician at Lenox Hill Hospital in New York, was not involved in the treatment of the South El Monte students but in an email to CBS he wrote that he could see how injuries like these would happen.

"Loops, knots and other types of 'holdings' -- used to wrap the rope around hands or any part of the body is extremely dangerous -- and can place individuals at risk for finger and hand injuries," Glattner wrote. "Including traumatic amputations and joint dislocations."

While extremely rare, there are several documented cases of similar injuries resulting from games of tug-of-war.

In 2007 two Colorado high schoolers partially severed their hands during a game of tug-of-war. One year later an 8-year-old Minnesota girl lost four fingers when her hand got tangled in the rope.

Tug-of-war was an Olympic sport until 1920, and the sport's supporters are hopeful that renewed interest could help getting the event restored by 2024. In the meantime, the Tug-Of-War World Championship in 2014 will be held in Madison, Wis.

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