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November 16, 2008 11:13 AM   Subscribe

How much damage would a mousetrap do to a person's finger? (This is for a play I'm writing.)

I'm writing a play in which a 5-year-old accidentally sticks his hand in a mousetrap. Some googling brought me to youtube videos of wannabe-jackasses sticking their fingers in traps and then howling in pain and laughter. Would a mousetrap do more damage to a child's smaller fingers? Would it require stitches? Would bones possibly be broken? I know this is a grim question, but worry not: the kid ends up okay. Thanks much.
posted by HeroZero to Health & Fitness (17 answers total)
It would most likely break a small kid's finger. I've been on the jackass end of this as a teenager, it hurt enough to dissuade me from ever trying it again.
posted by Optamystic at 11:33 AM on November 16, 2008

A fully powered trap would probably break a child's finger, but I think it would be possible to weaken the spring so that it would just sting a bit. Play around with a few traps to see.
posted by schyler523 at 11:49 AM on November 16, 2008

It would probably hurt. A rat trap, on the other hand, would most definitely break a finger.
posted by dunkadunc at 11:51 AM on November 16, 2008

At my local hardware shop they sell a range of mousetraps, from a small one that would not break a child's finger to a large rat trap that would break an adult's finger.

Just size your mousetrap to deliver the desired plot results.
posted by Mike1024 at 11:59 AM on November 16, 2008

A mousetrap can break the finger of a six year old. I am aware of this through parental experience. Not serious long term, but wow, can they wail.
posted by scottymac at 12:00 PM on November 16, 2008 [2 favorites]

I did this accidentally as a teenager (it was under a sofa, and I touched it while groping around for a pair of glasses which had fallen down there). It scared the bejeebus out of me, and only stung for a minute or two. I don't think it was any bigger than a pack of cigarettes. My brother, who witnessed it, is still laughing about it.

As mentioned above, though, rat traps are Serious Business. I've had to set them in the attic before and shown to my own kids (with a pencil) what they were capable of. It was a most impressive demonstration.
posted by jquinby at 12:12 PM on November 16, 2008

A fully powered trap would probably break a child's finger,

I did this when in first grade (didn't understand how sensitive they could be to touch). It hurt like hell, but it didn't break anything.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 12:54 PM on November 16, 2008

Keep in mind, too, that if multiple fingers are thwacked at the same time, the damage to each individual finger would be mitigated since the force would be spread out. So, if you're looking for a reason to have it not do permanent damage, that could be a way. Four fingers, each one with a good dimpled welt, instead of one finger broken or gashed.
posted by Fuzzy Skinner at 1:15 PM on November 16, 2008

I did this when in first grade (didn't understand how sensitive they could be to touch). It hurt like hell, but it didn't break anything.

When I was about ten years old, I was walking down a grocery store aisle running my hand across every box and some jerk had armed a mousetrap and set it there --- my fingers got snapped in it. Like the above commenters, it hurt like hell but didn't break anything, and the pain subsided after a few minutes.

And I was such a big boy I didn't even cry.
posted by jayder at 1:28 PM on November 16, 2008

I think it could break a kid's finger. I don't think it would break a kid's. When I was ten or so I had a mouse trap go off on my finger and it really hurt but it didn't do any serious damage. A five year olds finger is many times thicker than a mouses spine.
posted by I Foody at 1:30 PM on November 16, 2008

I was an idiot kid at times and my fingers got caught in a mousetrap once. It hurt like nobody's business but my fingers didn't break.
posted by HotPatatta at 1:43 PM on November 16, 2008

I can testify with certainty that it can make a nasty bruise on an adult's finger, but not break it. Nice bright purple line, though, between first and second knuckle for about a month, and everything from light switches to typing hurt.

So it seems very likely that it would break a child's finger. Yes, their bones are softer and less brittle, but they're also so much smaller in a cross section.
posted by rokusan at 1:44 PM on November 16, 2008

you could simulate it with a couple of appropriately-sized chicken feet* . (*available off the dim sum cart next time you're in chinatown...).
posted by panini at 2:08 PM on November 16, 2008

A small little mousetrap shouldn't do much damage, unless you were really unlucky about hitting a joint or something. My friends and I used to, in elementary school, snap mousetraps on our fingers for fun, sometimes repeatedly. (Yes, small boys are goofy, and yes, it's all fun and games until someone puts an eye out, I know.) It stings a bit, but as long as it hits a slightly fleshy part of your finger it won't even give you a real bruise.

A rattrap, however, is a different thing entirely -- I watched someone accidentally snap one of those on his thumb while trying to set it once, and while it didn't break anything it gave him a really nasty bruise and cut. I think one of those could easily break bones in a child's hand -- had the angle been different, in fact, I think it could easily have broken my friend's (adult) thumb.

My suggestion: buy a couple of mouse and rat traps, and set them off with pencils, carrots, and other finger simulators, and gauge the effects. They are cheap to buy, and kind of fun to play with.
posted by Forktine at 2:24 PM on November 16, 2008

I think some people think you're specifying the props.

For dramatic purposes, hey, if you need it to have broken the kid's finger I don't think it is really something audiences will have a problem with. If as you say the kid ends up okay, then having it NOT break the finger is probably dramatically much simpler. Unless you need a hospital scene.
posted by dhartung at 12:45 AM on November 17, 2008

According to a memoir about a poor Edwardian family I'm reading, it's entirely possible for a small child to break a finger in a mousetrap. The injury was compounded because she hid the wound. (She was afraid she'd be beaten for stealing cheese.)
posted by the latin mouse at 1:25 AM on November 17, 2008

Seconding Forktine's suggestion about getting a few traps and testing them with sticks and pencils and such. Might even be a fun way to spend an afternoon.
posted by hallowdmachine at 9:52 AM on November 20, 2008

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