This should come as no surprise to anyone but a study reported in the British Medical Journal has found that sword swallowing can be a dangerous activity. The study of 110 sword swallowers found information on about 46 of them. They found that complications from sword swallowing are more likely when the swallower is "distracted or swallows multiple or unusual swords or when previous injury is present." That makes sense. Here are some of the kinds of injuries sword swallowers complained of.
Thirteen respondents did not volunteer any medical information, but 19 described sore throats, usually when they were learning to swallow, after performing too frequently, or when they were swallowing multiple or odd shaped swords. Lower chest pain, often lasting days, followed some performances and was usually treated by abstaining from practice. They rarely sought medical advice. Six suffered perforation of the pharynx or oesophagus. Three of these had surgery to the neck, one having a 1.5 cm laceration at the level of D2 and a pneumothorax, one a pinhole laceration at C6 and surgical emphysema, and the other having a pharyngeal tear. The perforations were treated conservatively in three patients, one of whom had a second perforation with aspiration of a neck abscess after further injury. Three others also had probable perforations, one of whom was told that a sword had "brushed" the heart, and one had pleurisy and another pericarditis after injury, suggesting extraoesophageal trauma. No one underwent thoracotomy, although one had a breadknife removed transabdominally. Sixteen mentioned intestinal bleeding, varying in quantity from melaena or finding some blood on a withdrawn sword to large haematemases necessitating transfusion. No members of the association had died from sword swallowing, but the cost of medical care was a concern with three members receiving medical bills around $23,000 - $70,000
These results make you wonder if a similar study on knife throwing would also reveal risks and injuries? (via That's Fit -> Boing Boing)