Injuries from handshakes?

Rumor has it that Steve Howe, the guitarist in my favorite rock band, YES, refuses to shake hands with any of his fans, for fear that he might accidentally be injured and lose his livelihood. So the one time I met him, I purposely kept my hands to myself. But it got me wondering, how much of a risk is this really? I have been on the receiving end of my share of bone-crushing handshakes, but I have never suffered more than a bit of pain for a few seconds. And it seems to me that if this were really a risk, Mr. Howe wouldn’t be the only one worried about this, it would pretty much affect all musicians, artists, doctors, chefs, etc, etc – anyone who works with their hands. So what is the experience of Dopers out there: has anyone ever had a genuine injury from a handshake?

No, but I recall a few high-5’s that stung like a sonofabitch.

I like your taste in music.

Different people have all kinds of different pet peeves. From what I’ve seen in concert and pictures, his fingers are long and thin. Last time I saw (which isn’t recent), he looked like a strong wind could blow him over, so maybe it is a slightly valid fear.

This is related to a pre-existing case of carpal tunnel syndrome, but I’ve injured my wrist when getting a particularly vigourous handshake. For a musician that would be a particularly daunting prospect, especially when faced by rabid fans who may not know their own strength/enthusiasm.

During Terry Gross’s interview with…um, forget his name…movie trailer announcer guy, he mentions that he goes to some amount of trouble to protect his voice…I think he mentioned his diet and staying far from smoke. Seems like one’s voice is more delicate than their hands. I bet your guitarist guy does something on a regular basis that has a much greater chance of hurting his hand than handshakes…washing soapy knives, handling glass objects, riding a bike…hell, I’ll bet waaaay more people injure their hands in motor vehicle accidents than handshakes.

Perhaps he just doesn’t like to be touched by strangers. Hard to blame him for that, I guess. The hand injury fear seems pretty far fetched.

There’s the possibility that he doesn’t want to catch whatever somebody else has by touching them. If you’re on a multimillion dollar tour and you shake hands with somebody and come down with the flu, it could be a financial disaster. Just a guess, but a very real scenario.

Some good points here. Steve Howe must be pushing 60, so maybe his hands aren’t as resistant to crushing as they used to be. I don’t know for how long he has had this hangup…

As for germs, I hadn’t though of that. Maybe that’s part of his logic, I don’t know.

I’ve never had an injury from a handshake (unless you count getting infected with colds from other people), but I have had my hand crushed before (and I’m a woman - no “manly” competition there). Geeze, people - stop when you feel resistance - how hard is to shake hands without hurting the other person?

If my livelihood depended on my hands (come to think of it, I’m an office professional - it DOES depend on my hands), I would think twice about shaking too. I think handshaking is a custom whose time has come to die. As society becomes more crowded, I think people might have to give up handshaking. I know I want to wash my hands after every handshake - I don’t know where those hands have been, and I’m damned sick of getting sick.

Featherlou, you’re lucky you aren’t in Europe. Here we greet with kisses. In France two. Switzerland three. Italy, like 500 (and between guys too!).

Germs galore, but at least they have good wine to wash them down!

I’ve known several neurosurgeons, and two of them would not shake hands unless protocol absolutely demanded. One of them was extremely phobic about his hands, to the point of rarely showing them. A group of us were reviewing pictures from a trip we took together, and we noticed that, even in candid shots, this neurosurgeon’s hands were never visible. They were either behind his back, in his pockets or in some other way obscured.

A friend of mine (a fanatical powerlifter) broke his sister’s abusive boyfriend’s wrist during a handshake. I was there, and it was ugly. So yeah, it happens.

Very Sonny Corleone, I know.

The late, legendary guitarist Chet Atkins talked about the handshake hazard in an interview. He said his solution was to grab the fan’s hand first, in a grip that prevented the gorilla grip.

When my tendinitis was at its worst, a friend of mine drove me to my knees with a very firm handshake. I don’t think there was anything broken, but my hand ached for the rest of the day.

I’ve heard hand models are the same way.

I’ve never been injured by a handshake, however, I have had handshakes that hurt like a bitch, usually those applied by big aggressive men who don’t have the brain capacity necessary to see that I’m a small woman with little hands and that I’m clearly grimacing at their death grip. And then I’ve also had people who I’d swear were trying to dislocate my wrist from the number and speed of the shakes which they then apply to the hand. Any more than two shakes seems excessive, but some people’s handshakes feel like a jackhammer. I wouldn’t not shake hands with somebody (even big aggressive men) because I didn’t want to be injured, but then, I’m not a guitarist or a surgeon. I think it makes sense that those people wouldn’t want to run even an infinitesmal risk of injury. It only takes one hyper fan to ruin a career.

I agree that it’s a custom that’s run its course. A bow or a wave of the hand seems so much more civilized.

<eddie izzard>

“… that crusher handshake - you know, the I’ve-got-a-small-penis-I’ll-just-compensate-with-my-handshake… we know that is really a small-dick handshake. And we don’t react. We SHOULD react. If someone’s behaving like an idiot, you should just go 'OWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWW! What the F*CK are you doing?” Or collapse on the floor and just lie there as if you’re dead. ‘You bastard! You killed him! Yeah, he suffers from hand-squeezy-death!’"

</eddie izzard>

I simply fall back on classic ettiquette. A woman offers her hand first IF she wishes to shake hands. Men do not make the first step. I have NO problem staring at the offending hand until the guy removes it. I will not allow myself be pressured.

I will not shake hands with friends, but if you are a close enough friend you will get a hug and kiss euro-style. There are probably no more than 35 or 40 people I will greet with a hug and kiss, and I know lots of people.

A couple of thoughts on this.

Several years ago I met one of my favorite musicians, a drummer who has been playing an electronic “drumitar” for years instead of a regular kit (Roy “Future Man” Wooten). I was amazed at how small and frail his hand felt when I shook it, and kept my grip very light to avoid crushing him. In retrospect it’s amazing he shakes hands with random fans. I would fully understand if he avoided hand-shaking due to his lack of size and strength.

I have strong hands (bass-player and masseuse) and complete control over them, and I’ve worked in sales so I’m accustomed to gripping random hands. However my fingers are fairly short, so if the timing is wrong I sometimes end up without the ability to reciprocate when I get a super-firm handshake. These can be especially problematic in the context of the above-mentioned “crusher” handshake, which have occasionally given me reason to fear for the integrity of my bones.

Either of these, coupled with making a living using your hands, would be a legit reason to avoid handshakes.

Ian Anderson of Jethro Tull has a similar aversion to handshakes.

He has come up with a “humorous” alternative in that he will rub elbows.

His solo tours are even billed as “Rubbing Elbows with Ian Anderson”.

So Steve Howe is not alone in that regard.

OK, so the feeling I am getting here is that most people understand the rationale of handshake-shy people, but that in fact, no one has ever actually been injured from a handshake.

What about second-hand reports. Has anyone ever heard of a handshake injury happening for real to someone else?

From previously in the thread.

Anecdote: the stupidest handshake I’ve ever encountered was a guy who didn’t grip it excessively firmly, but grabbed my hand and then “turned it over” so that his hand was on top. . .the back of his hand facing up.

“ooo oooo. . .you big man. . .I submit. You are my superior. . .except for that ego problem.”

You can’t even naturally “shake” with your hand in that position.

Sorry, I meant a non-intentional injury.