Chiefs fans frostbite: Why some who attended freezing Kansas City-Miami playoff game are facing amputation

Some Chiefs fans might have gotten more than they bargained for after cheering on their team during its run to the Lombardi Trophy.

Several Kansas City natives have been advised to undergo amputations after attending the Chiefs’ wild-card round clash with the Dolphins, according to Dr. Megan Garcia, the medical director at Grossman Burn Center in Kansas City.

Garcia reports that 70 percent of the patients referred to Grossman for frostbite injuries could face amputation. Among those “dozens” of patients, the “majority” are Chiefs fans who spurned their health for their team during Kansas City’s postseason duel with Miami. With a wind chill of -27 degrees and a real temperature of -4 degrees, the game registered as the fourth-coldest in league history.

“The patients who had their frostbite injuries along with the Chiefs game, they are just getting to the point now we are starting to discuss their amputations that might be necessary,” Garcia said, according to Fox 4 Kansas City.

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Garcia doesn’t have an estimate on how many fans will actually go under the knife to excise their dead skin. However, the procedure — which centers around removing dead and decaying skin from afflicted areas — is a traumatic one. It’s likely frostbite could affect both amputee and non-amputee lives for a lifetime.

“It’s still a lifelong process. They’ll have sensitivity and pain for the rest of their lives and always will be more susceptible to frostbite in the future. So we are also educating them to make sure they stay warm for the years and months to come,” Garcia said.

Frostbite can happen on any part of the body. However, it’s more prevalent on the fingers, toes, nose, ears, cheeks, and skin. Those body parts tend to have less insulation and blood flow, making them more susceptible to arctic conditions.

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Patients are at the greatest risk of amputation when the limbs start to grow dark. If fingers and toes are turning into a midnight purple, that could be a tell-tale sign that amputation could be a worthwhile cause.

“What typically happens,” Garcia said in January, “is that that area kind of mummifies itself; it turns black and necrotic,” she said. “It typically smells, and, if they’re lucky, it won’t get infected. Eventually, the body will auto-amputate, meaning it will pull it off on its own.”

If you’re able to avoid losing some digits, your best bet will be to lock yourself in a hyperbaric oxygen chamber. There, your body will be seeped in oxygen from head to toe. More oxygen is more healing.

There are a number of factors that could impact whether a person could undergo an amputation or not, including medications, comorbidities, and the outdoor environment that surrounds you. Also common is frostnip, which is a less severe but still painful skin disorder that sees patients develop waxy, white-appearing skin in times of freezing conditions.

Coldest games in NFL history

Date Result Temperature Site
Dec. 31, 1967 Packers 21, Cowboys 17 (Ice Bowl) -13 degrees Green Bay
Jan. 10, 1982 Bengals 27, Chargers 7 (Freezer Bowl) -9 degrees Cincinnati
Jan. 10, 2016 Seahawks 10, Vikings 9 -6 degrees Minnesota
Jan. 13, 2024 Chiefs 26, Dolphins 7 -4 degrees Kansas City
Jan. 20, 2008 Giants 23, Packers 20 -1 degrees Green Bay

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