UKRAINE: A teenage fencer died after a broken blade penetrated his chest during a bout at the Junior Games in the Ukrainian city of Kharkiv on Friday.

Before this accident, only seven fatalities have been recorded since 1937, and most of these have occurred in highly skilled competitors in elite competition.

Yevgen Prokopyev was fatally wounded when his opponent’s foil broke and stabbed the 17-year-old in the chest, puncturing his lung, local media reported.

Doctors tried to save the fencer’s life at the scene but failed, prompting organisers to cancel the competition.

During an attack, the foil of the sportsman broke. But he already couldn’t come to a stop and with the broken blade fatally injured his opponent Yevgeny Prokop’eva.  The event was especially shocking as all safety equipment was being used at the event.

The head judge took the decision to immediately halt the competition, which would have continued until the March 17th.

Death in fencing is a very rare incidence, in the Junior division this is the first occurance.

According to the Epidemiology of Sports Injuries, Only seven fatalities have been recorded since 1937, and most of these have occurred in highly skilled competitors in elite competition.  Four of the fatalities resulted from penetration, with one or both lungs punctured and laceration of at least one major blood vessel in each case. Two of the fatalities occurred before plastrons (underarm protectors) were mandatory. 

Several characteristics or mechanisms that may contribute (either singly or in combination) to blade breakage, force of penetration, or both and result in death have been postulated based on the seven incidents. Most often noted are a right-handed fencer fencing a left-handed fencer, the use of orthopaedic grips, and the propensity to make counterattacks. Each of these characteristics was present in a majority of the fatalities (although in different combinations). Further research is needed to determine if modifying one or more of these characteristics would decrease the risk of sustaining a catastrophic injury.

At the 1982 World Championships in Rome, the famous Soviet foilist Vladimir Smirnov was killed. Then, his opponent’s blade broke, which pierced the mask of Smirnov.  This accident prompted higher safety standards for the fencing mask.  Generally any death in fencing results in changes in equipment standards to prevent future accidents.