College football player Shaquem Griffin impressed coaches and fans at an NFL scouting event on Saturday (March 3) when he bench-pressed 225 lbs. (102 kilograms) 20 times. And he did it all without a left hand.
Griffin, 22, lost his left hand when he was 4 years old due to amniotic band syndrome, a rare condition that occurs during fetal development. The exact cause of this condition is unknown, but it's thought to occur when parts of the fetus become entangled in the amniotic sac, or the sac of fluid that surrounds the developing baby, according to the University of California, San Francisco (UCSF).
The amniotic sac has two layers, an outer layer called the chorion and an inner layer called the amnion. It's thought that in cases of amniotic band syndrome, the inner layer of the amniotic sac ruptures and bands of floating tissue from the layer wrap around parts of the fetus — such as fingers, toes or entire limbs — constricting them, UCSF says.
The condition can cause several complications, ranging in seriousness from mild to severe. For example, in mild cases, a child might have a crease on one limb, but this doesn't affect how the limb works, according to Seattle Children's Hospital. In other cases, the bands can reduce blood flow to parts of the body, leading to restricted growth or tissue injury. Babies with the condition may be born missing fingers and toes if these digits are cut off inside the womb (known as congenital amputation), or the children may be born with their digits fused together, Seattle Children's says. [9 Uncommon Conditions That Pregnancy May Bring]
In severe cases, the bands can become wrapped around vital parts, such as the head or umbilical cord, and this can be fatal, according to UCSF.
In Griffin's case, the amniotic strands wrapped around his left wrist, preventing his left hand from developing normally, according to Sports Illustrated. If doctors had attempted to remove the band in the womb, it could have endangered the life of Griffin or his twin brother, Shaquill, Sports Illustrated reported. As a result, Shaquem Griffin was born with a left hand that didn't function properly and was painful to the touch. Doctors amputated his hand in 1999 to relieve this pain.
Now, Shaquem Griffin hopes to be the first player with one hand drafted to the NFL in the modern era, according to ESPN.
At the NFL Scouting Combine, an event at which college players showcase their skills in front of professional coaches, Griffin ran the fastest 40-yard dash for his position (linebacker) of anyone since 2003, according to Sports Illustrated. And for his weight-lifting feat, he used a prosthetic hand to grip the barbell as he pushed out 20 repetitions, smashing his previous best of 11 reps for that weight, according to the NFL.
"I remember when I first started using the prosthetic, I had just the bar and I was shaking all over the place," Griffin told NFL.com. "It's amazing because it just goes to show how much hard work I put in to get this level," he said.
Original article on Live Science.
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Rachael is a Live Science contributor, and was a former channel editor and senior writer for Live Science between 2010 and 2022. She has a master's degree in journalism from New York University's Science, Health and Environmental Reporting Program. She also holds a B.S. in molecular biology and an M.S. in biology from the University of California, San Diego. Her work has appeared in Scienceline, The Washington Post and Scientific American.