“Sword swallowers,” writes radiologist Brian Witcombe, “know their occupation is dangerous.” But how dangerous? Witcombe discovered there weren’t any good data on sword-swallowing injuries, so he teamed up with Dan Meyer, the executive director of the Sword Swallowers’ Association International, to survey 110 sword swallowers and find out about their job-related injuries. The resulting paper — “Sword swallowing and its side effects” — was published in the December 2006 issue of the British Medical Journal.
Apparently one of the biggest dangers in sword swallowing, the authors found, was “distractions”:
For example, one swallower lacerated his pharynx when trying to swallow a curved sabre, a second lacerated his oesophagus and developed pleurisy after being distracted by a misbehaving macaw on his shoulder, and a belly dancer suffered a major haemorrhage when a bystander pushed dollar bills into her belt causing three blades in her oesophagus to scissor.
Belly dancing while swallowing swords? Ay yi yi. Other hair-raising, gothic details include a swallower whose sword “brushed his heart”, oesophageal perforation, and sore throats caused by “odd shaped or multiple swords”.