H.S. Fencing Event ~ Saber Broke, kid got stabbed!


#1

We were at one of the High School Fencing Tournaments at a local school yesterday.

I was near the front of the event, in the school’s fieldhouse when the Nun who heads up our fencing program ran over and said** “DILLON GOT STABBED”** … my daughter and her team were with me at that moment so I had Melen run to get my first aid kit. I followed Sister Dorothy to find Dillon.

I find Dillon sitting in a chair, another assistant coach is applying pressure to Dillon’s side, a crowd is growing. My first aid kit shows up. There is no official ‘trainer’, EMT, etc in the area. Someone has already dialed 911 for an ambulance. Another teammate’s father gets some ice, applies it to the back of Dillon’s neck and is talking to him to keep him calm. I pull out some gauze pads but still have not seen the wound. Fencers wear SEVERAL LAYERS of gear to prevent this sort of thing. Someone called his mom, who fortunately was already on her way and pretty close.

Slowly we undress Dillon. He’s wearing a heavy Lame’ jacket (electrified jacket), a heavy dual layer cotton fencing jacket, a competition grade ‘plastron’* (a side protector designed to prevent blade penetration)*, and under all that he has on a T-shirt. The problem with Fencing gear is that things like the lame’ actually hook under the crotch too so they step into their clothes, insert their arms and then zip them up. Tough to get all that off when you have an injured kid and are trying to apply pressure to a wound.

We finally get to look at the wound. There is a 3" to 4" gash on his side, then about a 1" area of non-wounded skin, then above the gash is a puncture wound that goes in 1 hole and out another hole about 3" farther back. The blade flexed around his ribs but stayed under the skin (probably under the muscle too). The broken blade tip, about 6" of it, had protruded out of the rear hole. It was removed while Dillon was still standing on the competition strip by the other coach . . . probably not the best idea, but as this evolved it appeared that it became a non-issue.

Dillon never went into shock, the blade THANKFULLY never entered his chest cavity, as it bounced around his ribs under his skin/muscle layer.

Gauze and pressure until the school’s trainer shows up, he seem to be happy with what we did, he continued with the gauze and pressure. Through this Dillon is still alert, no signs of shock, his mom shows up and I pull her to the side and talk with her, explain that even if the trainer says its a flesh wound, and even if the EMTs *(who also just showed up and replaced the trainer) *say that this is a flesh wound, that Dillon needs to get to a hospital because we know that blade was broken off inside him and want to make sure there is nothing left inside him!!! Everyone is really amazingly calm, Dillon gets hauled off in the ambulance . . .

Fast forward a few hours . . .

I spoke to Dillon’s mom about 6:15pm, they were still in the hospital. X-rays (?) showed that there was probably no entry into Dillon’s chest cavity. Dillon was hungry and joking around, I could hear him in the background, the doctors wanted to keep him until 9pm and then send him down for another X-ray (?) to check the chest cavity near the wound again. No food for Dillon until they confirm that the wound is what he thinks it is, once confirmed then Dillon can get some food and probably go home. Dillon got a stitch at the top of the gash where it was a bit wider. He also got a couple stitches to close each end of the puncture.

[INDENT]SO, here are my observations, as someone who has only been involved in Fencing for about 3 years this seem like, and is statistically, a very safe sport. I am spend a few hours each week working on maintaining our team’s equipment, I build Sabers, Epees and Foils, I’ve seen a lot of brands, and lot of parts, have wired these weapons from raw parts, seen a lot of broken blades. BUT this is nothing like anything I’ve seen. I spoke with one of the coaches, he recalls a stabbing that occurred in Saber in 1979. Nobody else can recall a Saber stabbing.

Epee stabbings have occurred, they are rare, but that event is sort of a stabbing style of event while Saber is a slashing type of event.

Still, this was really bizarre because EVERY blade I’ve seen break, either in competition, practice or at the club, has gone flying away. Its sort of the nature of what happens, a break cleanly breaks and the broken part usually ends up 3’ to 10’ away. The curious part is that in this case the broken part of the blade is what was INSIDE Dillon, instead of flying away it actually is what caused the puncture wound.[/INDENT]

I will be getting the blade from the hospital and will be examining it with the saber coach (who is also a more experienced armorer than I am) and we want to look at the break for signs of bending because we suspect that the blade bent 180 degrees and drove into Dillon, snapped off inside him, and then the shaft withdrew leaving the tip BACKWARDS in Dillon’s skin.

The tip of a Saber blade is actually rolled into a blunt loop, it would take a huge amount of force to puncture the skin with the blunt end, and I can’t imagine the blunt end EVER going through all the safety padding that Dillon was wearing . . . especially since his equipment was regulation competition safety equipment.

TECHNICAL NOTE: the broken blade was a LEON PAUL brand blade, conforming to S2000 standards. * (among the best quality amateur blades)*.

And, just for reference, the incident happened on the last touch of the bout, Dillon scored the winning touch and won the bout!


#2

Thank goodness! I bet Dillow will love having the story since it wasn’t serious.

My dad was a wrestling coach for 28 years. He never had a student with a serious injury, but we know someone who broke his neck in a high school wrestling match and is paralyzed from the neck down. Every physical sport has risks.


#3

Thank God the kid was okay! Dear Lord, thank You!

That's terrifying!


#4

Sister Dorothy Marie only approved Saber for the first time last year. She was pretty shaken up and was talking about dropping Saber. The head Saber coach and myself both spoke with her and we are going to keep the Saber event, but only under the condition that our fencers switch to “FIE” standard Plastrons. The Plastron that our kids wear is a competition grade safety barrier and it is the accepted standard for probably 95% of the competitions, but there is a higher standard available called the “FIE” standard. So that will be the new requirement for this team. I know of no other team that requires it (maybe the Olympics???).

My daughter also competes on a club team, and has done so for a couple years, they hold tournaments and we don’t require FIE standards for any events at the club either.

I can’t fault Sister Dorothy for wanting the kids to have the HIGHEST level of safety available. She wants to do what she can to avoid this, even if it was a freak accident. So upgrading the plastrons is a reasonable step to help protect the kids.

And something tells me that Dillon will now understand the “Pirate” jokes that we were telling him yesterday while we were compressing the wound and waiting for the ambulance. :thumbsup:


#5

CORRECTION: I just found out, from the coach who removed the blade from Dillon, that it was NOT the tip of the Saber that went into his chest, it was the main shaft of the blade. The top 4" of blade did, in fact fly away, the remaining 27 or 28 inches of blade is what partially penetrated Dillon.

This makes much more sense.

I’d also like to point out that I still firmly believe that Saber fencing is a very safe sport. Our school’s team is shifting over to FIE rated plastrons, which offer even greater resistance to puncture wounds. We are doing so to be extra-extra safe.


#6

Wow, thank God he’s okay!!! Amazing story…


#7

Yup, Dillon is doing fine. I’m curious about his opponent. I was unaware of it at the time, but apparently he was shaken up by the whole thing too. I guess his parents took him home from the tournament? I’ve sent an email to the opposing Coach to find out about his fencer and I’ve assured that coach that Dillon is recovering and in good spirits and humor. So hopefully this will just end up being a good story for the kids to tell and nothing more than that :thumbsup:


#8

Fenced for years. To break a blade means someone is not maintaining their spacing or you have a faulty blade. 99.99999/100 it’s spacing. I’ve only seen two blade break and both were epee, not sabre. One gave me 8 stitches along the hip. So it does happen.


#9

Lutheranteach . . . I’d agree that spacing is often the cause of blade breaks, but I see broken Saber blades at EVERY tournament and frequently at practices at both the school and the local club.

I’ve NEVER seen a saber injury before due to a broken blade. However, Epee injuries due to broken blades, while rare, are not all that unheard of (as you unfortunately know first hand).

I think some of the newer rules with saber may be leading to more broken saber blades too, but again, broken blades don’t often equal injuries. So I think broken saber blades are probably now much more common than they were even just a few years ago. The rule changes don’t necessarily equate to danger, just to the fact that saber fencers tend to be more aggressive and blade contact, at force, tends to case them to break for frequently than Foil or Epee. In fact I’ve only had to replace 1 broken Foil blade* (where the blade actually snapped) *in the past several years.


#10

[quote="melensdad, post:1, topic:180374"]
I spoke to Dillon's mom about 6:15pm, they were still in the hospital. X-rays (?) showed that there was probably no entry into Dillon's chest cavity. Dillon was hungry and joking around, I could hear him in the background, the doctors wanted to keep him until 9pm and then send him down for another X-ray (?) to check the chest cavity near the wound again. No food for Dillon until they confirm that the wound is what he thinks it is, once confirmed then Dillon can get some food and probably go home. Dillon got a stitch at the top of the gash where it was a bit wider. He also got a couple stitches to close each end of the puncture.

[/quote]

They do the chest x-ray to make sure he doesn't have a hema- or pneumothorax. Thing of your lungs as a balloon that sits inside a paper bag; if the bag gets a hole in it, air can leak in causing the balloon to deflate or if enough vessels are ruptured blood fills in causing the balloon to deflate. They do a couple of films over a couple of hours just to make sure. No food or drink is given in case there is a pneumo or hemathorax so they can give conscious sedation when they insert a chest tube.

If you have a small pneumothorax they will do a few chest films to see if it resolves itself.


#11

[quote="wabrams, post:10, topic:180374"]
They do the chest x-ray to make sure he doesn't. . .

[/quote]

I think they were able to prove that the blade did not penetrate his rib cage but actually bounced off the rib (while staying under his flesh). But I'm sure the whole point of the tests were to prove that his lung was not punctured.

THANKFULLY that did not happen :knight2:


#12

That would have been verifired by a couple fo chest x-rays showing no pneumothorax. No pneumo, no puncture.


#13

In 23 years of fencing I never broke a sabre blade. Then again I always tested them a lot and was very picky about my blades. I did have a blade that I used for over 10 years in practice and never had a problem with it. Maybe they are using more brittle blades these days. The sabre blades I’ve seen break always broke at the tang and you can tell by the immediately.


#14

The blades I see break do so with a very clean break. Less than 1/2 of the saber blades I replace are broken at the tang/hilt. Most break somewhere up the blade. From what I understand they are designed to break clean when they break.


#15

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