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thanksgiving safety cooking tips

Safe Thanksgiving Cooking Tips from a Hand Therapist

by Justin Schvach, MOT, OTR/LLeave a Comment

Co-author: Amy Frederickson

Thanksgiving is a wonderful time to show gratitude and enjoy the company of family and friends. This holiday season, our expert Hand Therapists are talking through some common hand-related injuries and providing tips to keep you safe while cooking and celebrating Thanksgiving.

Tendon Injuries

During the holidays, people may tend to use larger knifes or cut larger quantities of vegetable and meats. Improper use of knives can result in a laceration (cut) to the tendons of the hand. If a cut is deep enough, it may impact the tendons, resulting in impaired function and motion. If the cut is to the palm of the hand, you will not be able to bend your finger if the tendon has been lacerated. You may experience numbness, tingling or a decrease in feeling and sensation. If the cut is to the back of your hand, you will be unable to extend or straighten your fingers or hand. An injury like this would require a trip to the ER followed up with a hand specialist for possible surgical repair.

Tips to avoid tendon injuries:

  • Always cut with the knife facing and moving away from the body.
  • Keep the cutting area and tools dry to prevent slippage of the knife, the board or the food being cut.1
  • Use sharp knives so that less force is required during cutting.1
  • Use a location with plenty of space and where you will not be bumped.
  • Be sure to keep knife blades easily visible and never hidden under another object or in soapy water.


The holidays are a time for baking and cooking. Accidents in the kitchen can lead to severe burns, especially with the recent trend of deep frying turkeys. Oil used for frying can be up to 400 degrees F and will cling to the skin that it touches.5 For comparison, water boils at 212 degrees F and does not cling to the skin. Burns can result in redness, blistering, extreme pain and loss of sensation to the area that was burned. Serious burns to tissues can lead to impairment of motion, use, sensation, and function as well.

Tips to avoid oil burns:

  • Place the fryer safely away from anything flammable where it will not be accidentally bumped or tipped.2
  • Use the fryer outside, away from the home and structures, and never use it inside a garage or enclosed space.2
  • Keep kids away from the space being used for the fryer.3
  • Do not overfill the fryer with oil to prevent spillover once the turkey is added.4
  • Make sure the turkey is fully thawed and dried to prevent melting water from causing spillover.2
  • DO NOT throw water on a grease/oil fire. Turn off the heat source and cover with a metal lid.

Jersey Finger

Thanksgiving is known for family time, food and football. The backyard football game can bring on much teasing, fun and bragging rights for the year, but it also comes with a risk of injury. A commonly occurring injury is known as a Jersey Finger. This occurs when the tendon on the palm side of the finger pulls off of the tip of the bone. The sign of such an injury is the inability to actively bend the finger joint farthest from the body. This type of injury received its name “Jersey finger” due to athletes grabbing onto an opposing player’s jersey and having it ripped out of their hand.

  • Do I have Jersey finger?
    • The end of the finger will be painful and may swell.
    • The tip of the finger cannot bend without assistance by an outside force.
  • What do I do?
    • Place ice on the finger.
    • See a hand specialist
    • Surgery or a specialized custom finger splint is often required to repair.

Keep Thanksgiving Fun!

Many holiday injuries are preventable. It is important to take the proper safety precautions so you can enjoy the Thanksgiving holiday and maintain the fun spirit all day long. If you have any questions about a hand or upper extremity injury, call or visit online to schedule an appointment with one of our occupational/hand therapists! We would love to answer your questions, provide treatment and help you feel your best!

Find a Hand Therapist Near You

The Athletico blog is an educational resource written by Athletico employees. Athletico bloggers are licensed professionals who abide by the code of ethics outlined by their respective professional associations. The content published in blog posts represents the opinion of the individual author based on their expertise and experience. The content provided in this blog is for informational purposes only, does not constitute medical advice and should not be relied on for making personal health decisions.

1. American Society for Surgery of the Hand. How to Carve a Turkey: 4 Safety Tips.
2. FDNY Foundation. “Deep Fryer Fires.” FDNY Smart,
3. National Fire Protection Association. Thanksgiving Is the Leading Day for U.S. Home Cooking Fires; NFPA Offers Tips and Recommendations for Enjoying a Fire-Safe Holiday. 13 Nov. 2017,
4. “Six Ways Deep Fat Frying a Turkey Can Burn You.” Healhtcare Home, 24 Nov. 2015,
5. University of Wisconsin Hospitals and Clinics Authority. “Deep-Frying Turkey? Don’t Get Burned by Lack of Knowledge.” UW Health, 12 Nov. 2018,

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About the Author:
Justin Schvach, MOT, OTR/L, serves as the Clinic Manager and Occupational Therapist/Hand Therapist at the West Chicago Dupage facility while providing work comp services at various locations. He has over 12 years of experience treating in the hand therapy setting. Justin's specialties include upper extremity, work conditioning, performing FCEs, Post Offer employment testing, and he is Graston certified for the upper extremity.

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