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View Full Version : Straight dope on: Rings, amputation and injury risk


wolfstu
03-21-2006, 06:03 PM
In first aid courses, in the military, and elsewhere, I've been warned about rings. I've been told that:

- In a case of swelling caused by shock or something else, the uncompliant ring around the finger can cut off circulation leading to tissue damage, nerve damage, etc. If you make it to an emergency room, they'll cut the ring off to try to prevent this.

- Rings can get caught in things, resulting in accidental amputation of the finger. I've heard a couple of anecdotes to this effect, one of which was of jumping over a chain-link fence and having the ring catch thereon; neither ring nor finger descend on the other side.

- Rings pose a risk of electrocution when you're working on electrical devices, or other dangers in specific situations.


For these reasons, a factory I worked in prohibited the wearing of rings on the floor (and virtually all jewelry as well). And one of my first-aid instructors wore his wedding band on a chain around his neck.

But what's the real deal on this? Obviously there are plenty of people who wear rings almost constantly (what with wedding rings and all) but how often do people hurt themselves because they're wearing rings? How likely is injury due to swelling, getting caught, or something else?

drachillix
03-21-2006, 06:13 PM
- Rings pose a risk of electrocution when you're working on electrical devices, or other dangers in specific situations.

Well I work on PC's and I wear my wedding band....no problems so far but we are also talking about low volt low amp stuff. For guys working with things like 220V and 480V main lines you don't want anything thats going to attract an arc especially since many of heavier systems are worked on live.

Ring cutting happens, but they can usually be fixed by a jewelry repair place. pretty easily.

When I was an EMT I didn't wear rings because lifting gurneys tended to deform the ring and I ended up with D shaped rings that were sometimes difficult to get off just due to the crushing.

Shagnasty
03-21-2006, 06:20 PM
One day I was walking my usual very brisk pace down Commonwealth Ave in Boston. For some reason, I was tapping or slapping polls as I walked by them. I walked past this pole with a pedestrian crossing button and slapped it. Next thing I knew, I was on the ground with a bleeding finger under my gold wedding band. I still don't know if I got shocked or if it was just mechanical force but I managed to catch my ring just right and not know it under my arm got yanked very unnaturally behind me and caused me to bust my ass. I have had a few other close calls as well so I believe it can easily happen.

Q.E.D.
03-21-2006, 06:28 PM
I- Rings can get caught in things, resulting in accidental amputation of the finger. I've heard a couple of anecdotes to this effect, one of which was of jumping over a chain-link fence and having the ring catch thereon; neither ring nor finger descend on the other side.
This very nearly happened to me, many years ago. I slid off a wet roof, and made a last-ditch grab for the gutter as I went over the edge. Didn't work, I was going too fast at that point. But, my ring caught on it and cut right through to the bone. After a fun-filled visit to the ER, I found I was no longer able to bend the last joint of my right ring finger. The ring had sliced right through the tendon. I could have had it fixed, but never bothered; to this day, that joint won't bend.

So, yeah, rings absolutely can cause injuries.

Scruloose
03-21-2006, 06:38 PM
Two things:

In the Navy's afloat safety magazine, I once saw a full page color photo of a ring finger that was pretty much nothing but bone - a result of the wedding ring getting caught on something and 'de-gloving' the finger.

I read a mishap report of a similiar incident on a cutter or small boat a few years later, however the victim wasn't injured nearly as bad as above.

It doesn't appear 'likely' that someone will lose or injure a finger given the number of people who actually wear one everyday, but I've certainly seen enough that I won't wear mine at work.

The Great Sun Jester
03-21-2006, 06:43 PM
Our motor pool had a similar poster. Degloved finger in a blue surgical towel. Necxt to this was the missing fleshy bit of the finger with a ring at its base. The caption read, "Remove the ring, not your finger." "Freak accident", thought I and carried on. Then, one fine day, I was vaulting out the back of a large military truck and I'll be damned if my ring didn't snag on something. Damn near tore my finger off. I learned.

FilmGeek
03-21-2006, 06:45 PM
I think if you're, say, a typist, you've got little chance of degloving at work. If you're say, a machinist, you'd be better off without.

I don't wear mine at work because they're a bit loose, and I'm afraid I'll lose them (I stock grocery store shelves) throwing boxes into the compactor.

Tapioca Dextrin
03-21-2006, 06:49 PM
For these reasons, a factory I worked in prohibited the wearing of rings on the floor (and virtually all jewelry as well). And one of my first-aid instructors wore his wedding band on a chain around his neck.

Your First Aid instructor knows his stuff. If you have a very strong stomach, stick the phrase "finger degloving injury" into Google. Not a pretty sight.

Scruloose
03-21-2006, 06:51 PM
Our motor pool had a similar poster. Degloved finger in a blue surgical towel. Necxt to this was the missing fleshy bit of the finger with a ring at its base. The caption read, "Remove the ring, not your finger."
Yep - same pic, I'll bet. In fact, I just found that pic on the web. If you do a Google image search on degloved finger, it's the first pic.

wolfstu
03-21-2006, 06:56 PM
I tried to search for rates of injuries; I didn't find much except this abstract of a scholarly article (http://www3.interscience.wiley.com/cgi-bin/abstract/112438255/ABSTRACT?CRETRY=1&SRETRY=0) which says that:Fifty-nine avulsed fingers were managed between May 1986-December 2004...which means at least (an average of) 3 per year that were involved in this study. I've got no idea of the geographic extent of that.


On the basis of the first few responses, looks like I may not be wearing the ring I'm considering getting in the near future. :eek:

picunurse
03-21-2006, 07:04 PM
My fireman husband was working in the garage on a ladder putting some extra sheet metal away in the rafters. he fell off the ladder, caught his ring on the sheet metal nearly taking the finger off. The sheet metal came down with him or it would have been gone.
He didn't tell me, right away, because he thought (rightly) I'd make him of to the ER.
By the time I saw it 10 hours later, he was still bleeding. The bone and tendons were showing. He refused to go in so I butterflied it closed, then tricked him into seeing his control Doc at work who held him down and sewed it back together the next morning.
No ring for my honey.

ryobserver
03-21-2006, 07:11 PM
I've seen photos of a finger injured when its owner, who worked in a warehouse, lost her balance while reaching to a high shelf; her ring snagged on the wire shelf, and the short drop to the floor did the rest. The photo showed a mangled hand, a mangled finger laid out several inches away, and a VERY stretched bit of tendon barely connecting the two. The accompanying article described an ultimately futile effort to reattatch the finger.

MY parents told me about a basketball player who left a finger on the edge of the basket after dunking while wearing a ring.

To keep this from happening, I'm told you can get jewelers to cut rings (on the underside of the finger, where it won't show) so that they will open and peel off your finger if they snag on something. Might be worth looking into if you're worried about the possibility.

Emergency rooms can and do saw off rings on injured hands, because they can and do shut off circulation. I think there are special cutter devices sold for the purpose.

Me, I hate wearing rings anyway.

Yeah
03-21-2006, 08:27 PM
Well I work on PC's and I wear my wedding band....no problems so far but we are also talking about low volt low amp stuff.

True, but I'd stay away from the power supply and UPS with my ring. I was once changing a bulb on a car when 12 V shorted through my metal watch band. I was shocked by the heat. I'd worry about a burn from the ring.

David Simmons
03-21-2006, 08:34 PM
In the WWII Army Air Force we were strongly advised to put our rings in our foot lockers and leave them there until we were out of the Army. I followed their advice.

wolfstu
03-21-2006, 08:42 PM
In the WWII Army Air Force we were strongly advised to put our rings in our foot lockers and leave them there until we were out of the Army. I followed their advice.

I'm a reservist flying instructor in the Canadian Forces. We're recommended against all jewelry during air ops. Aside from the personal danger, there's a fear that rings and pins and poppies could fall off and get lost someplace in the plane, potentially jamming control mechanisms or doing some other kind of damage. Wristwatches are exempt.

I comply as well. Nothing is pretty enough to trump flight safety.



So... seeing as it seems to be established that ring injuries aren't an outlandish wives' tale, does anybody have any ideas how frequent such injuries are?

Lazlo
03-21-2006, 08:47 PM
Your First Aid instructor knows his stuff. If you have a very strong stomach, stick the phrase "finger degloving injury" into Google. Not a pretty sight.

Only if his chain is designed to break away. :p

Green Cymbeline
03-21-2006, 09:07 PM
This happened to a friend's sister. She was with her young sons on a Boy Scout outing with one of those rope courses up in the trees. She was climbing a ladder built into a tree when she slipped, and her wedding band caught on a protruding nail, and she lost the finger. (I don't know whether she lost it then and there or if they had to amputate it, but it's still horrifying!)

marshmallow
03-21-2006, 09:15 PM
I've heard horror stories of what happens when rings and bad luck combine in the bedroom that require an ER visit.

I'd rather not think about it. But there ya go.

xbuckeye
03-21-2006, 09:19 PM
As much as I hate "me too" anecdotes in GQ, I have caught a ring too, although it was on a door and I was walking briskly. I didn't fall, but I really deformed my ring, cut the hell out of my finger, pulled tendons/ligaments/muscles from my finger all the way up to my neck, and had to wait a week to get the ring off. Now, I've been hurt a time or two, and that was a very painful injury. I place it somewhere between roll-over car accident and serious bike crash in severity. My plant expressly forbids all jewelry except plain wedding bands. I cringe whenever I see one of the guys poking their fingers into things with wedding bands on 'cause I'm just waiting for a ring to get caught. I don't know of anyone else who has ever caught a ring, but I am not willing to take that chance. Now jewelry is reserved for truely mundane and completely safe activities.

BobT
03-21-2006, 09:27 PM
The degloved finger photo now will keep me single even longer.

Bear_Nenno
03-21-2006, 09:27 PM
There are occassionaly safety advisaries that go out in the Army describing some serious injuries from rings catching on things.
I am going to just get a wedding ring tatooed on my finger instead.

BoringDad
03-23-2006, 10:01 PM
I was a "Bah, what a silly fear" kind of a guy about this. Then a couple of months ago through some incredibly bad judgement I ended up smashing my ring finger between the handles of two sledge hammers. Pinched the ring right down on my finger. Had I swung a little harder it would have been a trip to the emergency room to cut the ring off.
Stupid aura of invincibility, where have you gone now that I am grown up?

David Simmons
03-23-2006, 10:45 PM
I'm a reservist flying instructor in the Canadian Forces. We're recommended against all jewelry during air ops. Wristwatches are xempt. We were issued wrist watches that had break-away straps. And then we flew in loose clothing that could catch on almost anything. Go figure.

Nanoda
03-23-2006, 11:25 PM
True, but I'd stay away from the power supply and UPS with my ring. I was once changing a bulb on a car when 12 V shorted through my metal watch band. I was shocked by the heat. I'd worry about a burn from the ring.
A book I'm reading right now on PC security has (for some reason) a caution regarding rings. Apparently the author was working on a car with someone when they got their gold ring caught between a battery post and the car body. By the time he got it free, the gold had melted, and things were somewhat unpleasant in the digit department.

NinetyWt
03-24-2006, 02:38 AM
's a safety thing for welders, too. My hubby takes his ring off when he welds. Fire of relationship, one thing: fire which singes hubby's finger off is another thing. We'd like to keep his fingers, thankyouverymuch

:cool:

Skammer
03-24-2006, 08:27 AM
jumping over a chain-link fence and having the ring catch thereon; neither ring nor finger descend on the other side. This exact thing happened to my father-in-law many years ago. Jumping over a chain-link fence; wedding ring got caught; ring and finger did not come down with him. He wears the ring on his right hand now.

redtail23
03-24-2006, 09:08 AM
One more...a guy I knew in school was standing on a playground swing, pumping it up to jump off. Yup, caught his ring in the chain, stripped his finger off.

The guys I know that work construction or with machinery all take their rings off during work. Some wear them on a chain, some just stick them in a pocket or leave them in the car or at home.

wolfstu
03-24-2006, 12:09 PM
Okay, so thanks everyone for the anecdotes. :) I'm still trying to estimate the frequency, though, and here's some more of what I've found, using some of the search terms presented in this thread:

This site (http://www.emedicine.com/orthoped/topic284.htm) says that Approximately 100,000 digital amputations occur per year in the US. Of these, an estimated 30% are suitable for replantation.It doesn't say how many are due to ring avulsions, but it does say that:In general, the prognosis for ring avulsion injuries is poor.

Somebody did a biomechanical experiment (http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/entrez/query.fcgi?cmd=Retrieve&db=PubMed&list_uids=10584949&dopt=Abstract) to figure out how these ring avulsion injuries happen, and discovered thatThe average maximum force producing amputation in class III injuries was 154 N, a force much lower than expected. Force measurements for class II injuries were nearly identical to those of class III. This surprisingly minimal force resulting in digit amputation was explained by high-speed cinematography, which showed that the rings tilt on the digits concentrating disruption forces as a result of ring angulation on the finger.

That's about 34 pounds of force to completely amputate a finger, and half as much to cause major injury that doesn't result in 'degloving'. (My first link describes the classification system they're using.)

Another study (http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/entrez/query.fcgi?cmd=Retrieve&db=PubMed&list_uids=10991802&dopt=Abstract) says they've found a way to reliably prevent these injuries from happening, but I think you have to pay to find out what it is.

Still nothing on frequency, except that total finger amputations count 100,000 per year in the US.