Straight dope on: Rings, amputation and injury risk

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?

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

I tried to search for rates of injuries; I didn’t find much except this abstract of a scholarly article which says that:

…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:

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.

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.

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.

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?

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

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!)

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.

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.

The degloved finger photo now will keep me single even longer.