Hell hath no fury…

Like a mother’s uninformed outrage.

This isn’t a particularly humorous story, especially so as a first post to be writing as a contribution to this blog, but displays the kind of unchecked, illogical thinking that crops up in Yahoo news “journalism” all too commonly.

The mother’s young daughter being paralyzed is certainly a just cause for anger, sadness, and devastation. Any concerned parent would want answers and for that I do not fault the Minnesota mom for her disbelief, but what we have here is a classic case of Dunning-Kruger manifesting itself in the wake of what sounds like a freak accident.

The accident report stated that the girl fell unaided – whether or not this is true largely appears to be a case of ‘he said, she said’, but our family in question seems to be on a more conspiratorial line of thinking with quotes like this:

“You don’t get paralyzed from falling. It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to figure it out,” Penny Privette, Jenna Privette’s mother, told the Star-Tribune.

Besides the fact that rocket scientists don’t deal with medical injuries at a professional level, a cursory search for paraplegia/paralysis would disagree. Paralysis can occur with injuries that result in certain trauma to the nervous system, most especially spinal damage. While the report does not go into depth about how the girl fell or the context leading up to, it is not at all unrealistic to consider that she could have fallen on her back or hit her neck in some way. These things, while not particularly common, do happen.

Damage to the spinal cord is most often caused by trauma, such as a fall or a car crash. [Source; emphasis mine]


The woman goes on to display a particularly uncritical assessment:

“We’re losing the sight of what’s most important. We know what we know. We know what … we saw. … I’m not going to get into a big war over stuff when I have my daughter sitting here in a hospital bed.”

As skeptics, we know that first-hand account is often particularly unreliable. “We know what we know and we saw what we saw” is not a critical analysis and does not provide reliable, irrefutable evidence. This kind of testimony would not hold up in a court of law. We have reason to doubt a grieving mother who is probably looking for answers in what could very well be a one-in-a-million accident, especially in context of the report given:

“She was not contacted illegally, did not fall into the boards and did not appear to fall awkwardly to the ice,” the report said. The official said he checked with his partner, the linesman, the EMT on staff and the school athletic director, and “everyone agreed that the player appeared to fall unaided.”


This is not unreasonable. The case is undoubtedly a sad one and one can only hope that her daughter makes a full recovery, but we are presented with a cause to cast doubt on the family’s assessment of the situation. Certainly it is possible that the investigation was trying to avoid undue lawsuits or similar hardships, but the case becomes more interesting with this tidbit:

Penny Privette said previously that doctors were hopeful her daughter would regain feeling in her legs, as she did after a similar injury in 2008.


At last, the twist! While the specifics are, unsurprisingly, vague as hell, this clip alone suggests that this girl has a history of paralysis-related injuries. The kicker comes next:

It’s unknown whether the new changes will actually be able to inspire better hockey behavior, but one thing does seem certain: They aren’t going to make anyone happy by claiming that one of the players who was left paralyzed by such a hit was responsible for her own injury.

What I hate here isn’t that Yahoo News has pointed out an uncomfortable truth. It’s that the insinuation here is that those who did the investigation into the incident should spare the feelings of the family and tell them what they want to hear. Sometimes there are blameless accidents. Sometimes one-in-a-million injuries occur – and sometimes they’re not so one-in-a-million when you find out the girl in question has apparently had a similar injury in the past. Is it entirely possible that there was an illegal check that put this unfortunate girl in the position she is? Yes. Is there compelling evidence put forth to support it in this article or the second source cited? Absolutely not.

Emotional outrage is often fraught with fallacy. Feeling something strongly – even very strongly does not make your belief unquestionably rational or reasonable. In times of duress, we often look for answers and can feel deeply disturbed of unsatisfied if it seems like there aren’t any (see also: “acts of god” and other paranormal beliefs), or if we don’t get the answer we’re looking for. Certainly blaming someone else for your son or daughter’s injury can take off some of the pain you justifiably feel at seeing someone you love suffer, but reality can be a hard pill to swallow. If, in fact, the girl in question fell unaided, it is not to say she purposely injured herself or should dwell unduly on the incident, but an accident is just that – an accident.

Leave a comment

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: