The Real Names of 10 Operation Ailments

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Poor Cavity Sam. With all those different ailments riddling his body, you'd think he was a goner for sure. But he's been plugging away, suffering through numerous operations at the hands of unskilled amateurs since 1965. Here are the 10 real terms for some of the problems Cavity Sam has been dealing with over the years.

1. Brain Freeze

In 2003, people could call in or go to the website to vote on Sam's latest affliction. Their choice? Ice cream headache, which comes from scarfing down something cold too fast. If you want to impress people, refer to it by its real name: sphenopalatine ganglioneuralgia. We think it's the result of blood vessels expanding quickly to respond to the cold.

2. Writer's Cramp

This is actually called mogigraphia or scrivener's palsy. It was once thought that people who suffered from it held their pen incorrectly or with too much pressure, but studies have shown that's not necessarily the case. Incidentally, someone with Writer's Cramp would have a really difficult time successfully gripping the tweezers to remove the little pencil lodged in Cavity Sam's wrist.

3. Adam's Apple

Medically, it's known as the laryngeal prominence, and there's really no reason to remove it. Cavity Sam could sue you for malpractice. Some people have had surgery to reduce the size of the Adam's Apple, though it's common in gender reassignment surgeries and is called chondrolaryngoplasty.

4. Charley Horse

It's a good thing we have a cute little nickname for this guy, otherwise we'd be telling people that we were suffering from a painful contusion of the quadriceps muscle of the anterior or lateral thigh that commonly results in muscular hematoma. And if you're wondering why in the heck we call it a Charley Horse, well, your guess is as good as any. There are several unconfirmed theories, including one that there was a major league baseball pitcher named Charlie "Old Hoss" Radbourn who played from 1880 to 1891 who suffered from such cramps. It may also have been sporting slang in 1887—the name of a horse or type of horse, maybe a lame one.

5. Funny Bone

You probably already know that this guy is medically referred to as the humerus, which is where the play on words comes in. But you may not know that when you bang your elbow on a table and send shockwaves up your arm, it's not just your Funny Bone that you're hitting—it's the ulnar nerve that makes you yell a few choice phrases.

6. Broken Heart

There is actually a "Broken Heart Syndrome," also known as Takotsubo cardiomyopathy. It's the sudden weakening of the heart muscle and can be brought on by emotional stress, such as grief over the loss of a family member, which is where it gets the name. So you really can die of a broken heart.

7. Water on the Knee

It's actually called knee effusion, and it's not, as Operation would have you believe, characterized by a bucket of water hidden under your kneecap—but it does happen when excess fluid builds up in the knee due to arthritis, injury, infection, or gout.

8. Wishbone

The wishbone is known as the furcula and is only found in birds, so hang on to that piece once you remove it from Cavity Sam and make sure you document your surgical process. You have a real medical oddity on your hands. By the way, it's also sometimes called a "merrythought" or a "pulley bone."

9. Growling stomach

This one and the next one didn't actually make the Operation game—they were the other two options that didn't make the final cut when people could vote on the newest ailment in 2003. But you'll want to know this for the next time your stomach growls in the middle of a meeting and everyone turns and looks at you. "Sorry, please excuse my Borborygmus."

10. Tennis Elbow

This is also known as lateral epicondylitis. It's caused when the tendons in the elbow are overused—sometimes by swinging a racket, though activities other than tennis can lead to the condition—and become inflamed.

This story originally appeared in 2010.

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September 30, 2013 - 10:20am
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