• Mayo Clinic Minute

    Mayo Clinic Minute: Be careful when carving on Thanksgiving

Food tends to be the focus on Thanksgiving, but preparing that food is often trickier than many people expect. Dr. Sanj Kakar, a Mayo Clinic orthopedic hand surgeon, says far too many people accidentally carve up their hands while trying to carve up the turkey. Dr. Kakar offers these tips to help keep you out of the emergency department this Thanksgiving.

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This Thanksgiving, don't let a poke, stab or slice prevent you and your family from enjoying turkey time.

"We see a lot of turkey-cutting injuries," Dr. Kakar says.

Thanksgiving is supposed to be a time dedicated to family, football and food, but too often, it turns into a day of finger and hand injuries.

"In terms of what happens is that people who aren't familiar with using a knife tend to do it, and their hand ... slips," Dr. Kakar says. "And if you actually think about how you're cutting, ... the knife can actually slip and puncture your hand."

Dr. Kakar sees patients who have injuries related to turkey carving that range from deep slices to cut tendons, and even fingers cut off.

"Well, I think the No. 1 risk factor is alcohol," he says.

So if you've been drinking, leave the carving to someone else.

"Another common cause for injuries is with distraction," he says. "So the whole family is gathered around. There's a lot of excitement. The turkey comes out, and one can be distracted when you're doing it."

That's why he recommends doing the carving in the kitchen away from distractions, then bringing the sliced turkey to the table.

Dr. Kakar's third tip comes from the fact that many people serve foods on Thanksgiving that they don't eat or prepare other times of the year. He's seen patients who tried to prepare a squash or some other vegetable, but didn't know the proper way to cut it. His recommendation is that if you don't know the proper way to cut something, just use it as a centerpiece on the dining room table.