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Old 10-29-2011, 05:24 AM   #1
LoneStreetlight
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Specific Knee Injury

Hi. I've been researching knee injuries, but the one I have in mind is very specific and I couldn't find much that matched it. In a story I am planning, a character is stabbed in the knee with a rake. It's not just an average modern day rake, but an older one which has been reenforced for battle. It looks sort of like the top picture on this page: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Rake_%28tool%29 .

My question is, if the rake was swung so that the spikes dug into someone's knee (and on the outside of their leg), what kind of damage could it do? If there are no modern day medical supplies around, what would happen? Would there be risk for infection? To what extent could someone recover from this sort of injury, and how long would that take?

Sorry for all of the questions but I have a pretty specific scenario in mind, and I want to get it right before I plan other parts of the plot around it.
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Old 10-29-2011, 03:22 PM   #2
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Almost certainly a high risk of infection - in fact infection from injury was a major cause of mortality and morbidity in most wars before they considered things like sterile environments. Septicaemia and gangrene meant you either died or had a limb amputated to prevent it from spreading to the rest of the body and killing you.

There is also a chance (assuming they survive the injury without losing the leg which is unlikely) that the tendons and ligaments in that area will be mangled - something akin to cruciate ligament injury which affects a lot of footballers (American and Soccer versions). A violent blow to the leg at an angle which pushes the knee in a way against the normal axis of the joint risks wrenching the cruciate ligaments and causing long term damage which will cripple unless treated surgically (and using techniques which were only discovered in this world in the last 50 years, I think). You basically need to take a tendon and sew that in place of a torn ligament and allow the body to recognise that it is now a ligament and not a tendon and therefore slowly change its physical structure to match (sounds wierd but that is how it works...). Not really possible with any level of medical knowledge pre20th century.
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Old 10-30-2011, 11:36 PM   #3
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Thanks so much! That's actually pretty convenient for what I have in mind.
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Old 10-31-2011, 12:16 AM   #4
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A minor consideration is the construction of the rake. One with lots of metal tines will do less damage than having only a few tines. The reason is that you are delivering a set amount of force with your swing. If that force is concentrated in three or four tines, it will have a much bigger impact than if it's spread out over ten or fifteen tines.

While I'd never want to get whacked with a metal rake in the leg, something more like a pitchfork is going to cause more injury than a modern rake that spreads out the force along a dozen tines.

The leg is big wad of meat, has a strong central column of bone and is vulnerable at the joints (knee and hip). Hitting someone in the leg with a weapon is going to push that leg inward. A rake that digs in and mangles the knee area is probably going to drop them towards the side that they got hit on because their leg will buckle inwards due to the damage. The rake itself shouldn't stick much because the bones and knob of the knee will take a lot of the impact. If the rake was hit higher up the thigh and had sharpened tines it would stick into the meat of the leg and be very hard to remove.

It's a nasty-sounding wound and as areteus points out infection is likely to be the final cause of death. You aren't going to go ballroom dancing after something like this.
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Old 10-31-2011, 01:21 AM   #5
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I know rather too much about crucial rupture.
PM me if you need further info
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Old 10-31-2011, 06:41 AM   #6
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Thanks for the help, and thank you waylander for the offer. I might just take you up on it once I'm done plotting out the story. I'm not sure if I need this character to live or die yet, but he'll definitely be taken out of the action, which was what I was going for. Would there be any break or something that a non modern doctor would clearly be able to see and probably focus on when treating the patient?
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Old 11-01-2011, 02:46 AM   #7
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Ugh, I went searching on youtube for videos about knee injuries and now I want to go stare at pictures of puppies or something for a while. Bleargh.

If you go to youtube and type in "football knee injury" there are loads of videos of players getting seriously hurt. There's also a video that pops up in that search about general knee injuries. I'd expect that smashing someone with a rake is going to be a lot less visually impressing than hitting them with a 200 pound lineman, but you'll still damage the knee and leg. They'd need a stretcher to get off the field of battle and a crutch for the rest of their (probably short) life.
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Old 11-01-2011, 01:27 PM   #8
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I've used that video in teaching. The kids love it
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