What would happen if I closed a car door on my leg?
February 9, 2009 7:09 PM   Subscribe

I have an ongoing fear of slamming my own leg in my own car door when getting into the car.

Now, when it comes to lack of grace, I am definitely on the low end of the bell curve, so this fear is not completely unreasonable. I try to be careful, but EVERY time I get in the car lately it crosses my mind: that I need to pull my left leg completely in before slamming the door shut. Hopefully I'll always remember to do those things in that order. But just to assuage my curiosity: Has anyone ever done this? And what was the outcome?
posted by bchaplin to Health & Fitness (28 answers total)
I have never done this, but I'm predicting that first it would hurt, then you would quickly look around to check if anybody had seen you being a massive dumbass.

Probably if you were wearing white trousers you would get a nasty mark on them too.

But mainly the "oh god I'm such a fucking dumbass" bit.

If this genuinely worries you, try not so much "slamming" the door as "pulling it gently shut".
posted by turgid dahlia at 7:12 PM on February 9, 2009

I've never shut the door on my leg, but while parked on steep hills I have had the door swing shut on my leg.

I got a bruise. That was it. Once, because of the angle my leg was at, my shin turned some pretty amazing colors, but really, aside from some dirt on my pants, the outcome was swearing and some minor ouchiness for a little while.

But I'm not really sure if this answers your question.
posted by rtha at 7:14 PM on February 9, 2009

It doesn't sound as much like a fear to me as a mental hiccup.
posted by bonobothegreat at 7:19 PM on February 9, 2009

I once shut my leg in my trunk (don't ask how it happened--I'm not really sure myself. It was fine one moment and then all of a sudden, my knee was in the door and I was throwing it closed. wtf). Anyway, I had a nasty door-shaped archipelago of bruises on both sides of my leg for the next two weeks. And a great story. Worse things can happen. Don't worry about it so much. =)
posted by phunniemee at 7:29 PM on February 9, 2009

Unless you are a twitchy bodybuilder who drives a Hummer, it's nothing to worry about.
posted by brianogilvie at 7:36 PM on February 9, 2009

I slammed a car door shut on my thumb once, resulting in a broken bone. I doubt that a leg would have the same result. And yeah, I felt like a dumbass!
posted by chez shoes at 7:38 PM on February 9, 2009

Hmmm. That's actually reassuring, thank you. I actually had visions of a severed leg; I guess I am overestimating the strength of a car door. (It's a Subaru, not a Hummer.).
posted by bchaplin at 7:39 PM on February 9, 2009

I did it once. I shouted various types of profanity for about a minute, then muttered same profanity for five, all while gripping said leg and rubbing nearby snow on it as a makeshift icepack. Then I was ok, and had a really impressive bruise for a while.
posted by Tomorrowful at 7:41 PM on February 9, 2009

Our driveway slopes upwards, so I think about this every time I get into my car. The door stays open on its own for a couple of seconds, so I jump in before it slams shuts by itself. But if the door did slam on your leg, it wouldn't be enough to cause serious damage--you'd have a nasty bruise, but nothing more (unless you're driving a tank of a car).
posted by asras at 7:47 PM on February 9, 2009

Done this before. (I've also been dragged out an open car door before.) You'll get some fancy bruises if you put much force behind it. I've gotten in the habit of leaving the car door open until I am sure all my bits are in place. (This doesn't include just body parts; it includes coats, purse staps, seat belts...etc.)
posted by sperose at 7:54 PM on February 9, 2009

I've closed the car door on my leg any number of times. (I have this...motion...whereby I'm inserted into my little car. It involves ducking and shimmying, and sometimes I get the timing wrong.) I've closed the truck door on my leg any number of times. It hurts about the same as checking your thigh into a piano. That's it.

Now, having a Jeep run over your arm, I can attest...that fucking hurts. I screamed like a bitch, but it still didn't break any bones (I had to be left handed for a month, tho). I think you're ok.
posted by notsnot at 8:09 PM on February 9, 2009

Forbes says about 150,000 Americans hurt themselves with a car door each year. It suggests that the big worry is a broken hand.

This page suggests that it's not likely to seriously injure you (as in, doesn't mention broken bones, although says it could be dangerous for patients on blood-thinning medication).
posted by jacalata at 8:17 PM on February 9, 2009

When I was a kid I had car hood shut on my fingers. It hurt like crazy but I didn't even break anything. A closing car door has much less force behind it (you're basically doing all the work yourself as you're pulling it closed) and a lot more surface area (both on the door itself and on your leg) to spread the force over.
posted by zsazsa at 8:22 PM on February 9, 2009

I've had a door shut on my arm before. It ... hurts ... but no broken bones or anything, just some bruising. I think you should be fine.
posted by Xany at 8:55 PM on February 9, 2009

It will hurt, how much depends on how hard you close the door and how heavy it is. The body can absorb a lot of shock, so what you'll find is that it will bruise along the contact patch, and there will likely be a scrape along it. That's my experience, anyway. You may get a fracture if someone else closes the door on your limb. Maybe. Legs are pretty tough.
posted by rhizome at 9:06 PM on February 9, 2009

I once slammed my hand in a car door and it was locked and the driver started driving off. Now that fickin' hurt. I wouldn't recommend it. Your leg would probably prevent the door from shutting all the way though so that probably couldn't happen. I'd say you're good.
posted by tamitang at 9:29 PM on February 9, 2009

You know those van doors in which the latch pops them laterally out, and then they slide backwards on rails? I'm not describing this well, but the result is an entryway, and a door the size of the entryway that doges out of the way, offset from the van side by some centimeters.

So, as a kid, I wrapped my hand around the back of the sliding door -- between door and wall -- and slammed it shut to close it. Small fingers, big force, lousy Mazda engineering, and bad luck: it latched shut. I soprano-screamed, my dad came running to my aid, looked at the situation, and told me very carefully that it was going to pinch even more for a moment as he re-activated the mechanism.

What happened? A cut down both sides of my hand, at the base of my fingers. I think it bled a little, but not much. No broken bones. Not even an immobilized hand. And I expect there is far greater risk of damage to a seven-year-old's fingers than to an adult's thigh.
posted by quarantine at 9:33 PM on February 9, 2009

Once when I was using my mothers Chrysler LeBaron, I managed to slam the car door closed and hit myself in the ear with the door. (I don't know exactly how it happened. An icy parking lot and an armload of library books may have been factors.) In the event that it will help you, here is the recounting of the series of events.

First, it hurt like you would not believe. Gasping for air type pain.
Second, wiping of tears and looking to see if anyone had seen my be so uncoordinated.
Third, denying it had ever happened.

It happened years ago and I still remember how badly it hurt.
posted by 26.2 at 9:44 PM on February 9, 2009


Yeah, I've done that.
Your shin smarts.
Then you are more careful after that.

I'd blame it on being a scatterbrained artistic genius, but, other than my obvious lack of grace, I am rather ordinary.

It was in my wife's car, so I was ralatively familiar with it, but it was too low slung and the driver's compartment was too small for my lumbering frame. As a result, I usually had to try and coordinate my entry and the closing of the door to avoid smashing my forehead on the door frame and tweaking my shoulders out of alignment while leaning over to grab the door.
If you are comfortable in your car, I don't think you have much to worry about.
posted by Seamus at 10:34 PM on February 9, 2009

On the other hand -- and I know this sounds random -- if you're taking any antidepressants or other meds, especially something new, mention this mental hiccup to your doctor. I can't remember the particular med offhand, but there was something fairly recently where it was giving people these intense images of hurting themselves with knives and whatnot. Longshot, I know, but the idea that you might accidentally sever your own leg with a car door sounds unusual and a bit like the people describing the feeling they were having in the article I'd read.
posted by davejay at 11:19 PM on February 9, 2009

I'm not sure that remembering to not slam the car door on your leg EVERY time is necessarily a bad thing. That being said, it doesn't really answer your question.
Why don't you try it? It'll probably hurt a bit, you may even hop up and down and curse. I doubt that you would sever, break, or even seriously damage your leg. But, it might help you to keep your legs inside the vehicle at all times without thinking about it.
posted by ActingTheGoat at 12:10 AM on February 10, 2009

Funny, I did this to myself last week. The bruise is spectacular. It was a result of having a lot on my mind and just having carried/set down a load of things, messing up my sense of "do this, then this, then this" -- obviously I mixed up the "pull in leg first, then shut door" steps. It hurt, but it was not horrible or anything, and I'm grateful that it was my nice sturdy leg and not my not-so-sturdy fingers.
posted by Marit at 1:55 AM on February 10, 2009

Thanks again for the answers! I do not think I will go as far as actually trying it to satisfy my curiosity; I am going to try to continue NOT to injure myself getting into my car. Davejay, I appreciate the heads-up. Actually, I am not on medications of any kind. I believe that my concern about what might happen betrays a lack of understanding of the forces of physics rather than any kind of vivid fascination with hurting myself! Still good advice for someone else who might be reading this thread and fit the criteria you describe.
posted by bchaplin at 3:59 AM on February 10, 2009

Assuming you're right-handed, and in a r-h traffic country: you trust your "duh" hand not to slam the door on your graceful feet. No wonder you get nervous.

Left-handers have this problem only when they are the passenger. No. Left-handers get constant training to overcome this kind of stuff. The most likely thing to happen when using power drills with the safety button below the palm of your hand, drill presses with the handle on the wrong side, corkscrews that turn the wrong way round, bank machines with the card slot on the wrong side etc. etc., is to mix up the order of events.
This is what this problem is about. You know that you need to pull in the foot first and slam the door afterward, but you fear that your poor little brain will get mixed up, because it has to communicate with an untrained work unit, using a poor phone connection, so to speak.

Apart from that, there's the universal problem of not putting your car keys, but the letters, into the mailbox. I mean, sometimes one simply mixes up the order of work steps, and it has nothing to do with handedness at all, just with a lack of focus. Cause #1 for workshop accidents.
posted by Namlit at 4:12 AM on February 10, 2009

The spot where I used to park my car was on a slope, so that the driver's side was higher than the passenger's side. Once I was getting in and gravity slammed the door on my left fist.

For a good few seconds, I just sat there in shock, silently staring at my hand stuck in the door and wondering how I was going to get it out. After some time I realized, durr, I had a second hand that I could use to open the door.

Which I did, and promptly started with the hand-waving and the AUGH OW FUCK.

For my pain, I got two indentations on my knuckles that turned into little black bruises. I didn't break anything, and I was able to drive to work and get through my waitressing shift with no problem. My bruises weren't even big or cool enough to impress anyone. So I imagine a leg would be okay.

I can understand the somewhat-irrational fear of accidentally severing a leg; I sometimes worry (in a very over-the-top, unrealistically graphic way) what would happen if I get stuck in a CTA exit turnstile - but I've been riding the CTA for ages and it's never come close to happening.
posted by Metroid Baby at 6:44 AM on February 10, 2009

Park on a flat place, and practice. Most phobias are responsive to confronting the scary behavior in a safe way. Take your time. Open the door, get in. Note that your legs are safely in the car. Close door. Repeat. Practicing makes it lees likely thatyou will accidentally close the door on your legs, as well as reducing the fear. Good luck.
posted by theora55 at 7:43 AM on February 10, 2009

The passenger door on our car closes on my leg all the damned time. It hurts, and sometimes leaves a bruise, but it's no big deal. It's more annoying than anything.
posted by sarcasticah at 9:30 AM on February 10, 2009

If you're worried about actually hurting yourself, you'd have to be trying pretty hard.

I slammed the door extremely hard on my foot once, hard enough that I some how managed to almost latch the door with my shoe smashed between the bottom of the frame and the driver seat. No bruise even!

For what it's worth... in order to get enough momentum to actually do real damage to your leg, you'd almost have to put your left leg on the ground and turn your body with your strong arm to grab the handle. By turning your body you'd bring your left foot and left femur into perpendicular alignment with the incoming door which consequently is the best position to absorb the impact without a shearing break.

Or in other words... to actually break your own leg in the door you would have to carefully orchestrate the whole affair and even then you'd likely fail.
posted by JFitzpatrick at 7:53 PM on February 10, 2009

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