The use of corporal punishment in educational settings has become increasingly rare. The U.S. is the only advanced industrial nation that fails to prohibit the practice. In 21 states, persons in charge of pupils may legally batter them as a form of punishment. Opposition to reform is centered mainly in the rural south.
One such method of corporal punishment is to strike children on the hand using a variety of implements such as a wood or metal ruler or a leather strap. In this statement, the undersigned address the potential physical risks incurred by children when their hands are struck in this manner.
There exists a whole range of orthopedic complications which can result from striking the hand of a child with a cane, ruler, strap or other such implement. The hand is particularly sensitive to injury because of the proximity of the ligaments, tendons, nerves and blood vessels to the skin, which does not have underlying protective tissue. Younger children are even more susceptible to permanent deformity because of the possibility of injury to growth plates in the bones. Injuries can range from fractures to dislocation, particularly to the terminal phalangeal joint, which could possibly lead to premature osteoarthritic changes. There are also risks of developing severe infections in the fascial spaces of the hand, particularly if there are pre-existing undiagnosed subungual infections. Infections of the hand often require hospitalization, and create a significant risk of loss of function of the hand.
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