Comedian Jimmy Fallon ended up spending 10 days in intensive care in June of this year (2015) after slipping on a rug in his kitchen and catching his wedding ring on the counter. In his retelling of the accident when he returned to The Tonight Show, he said he first thought he had only broken his finger since it was badly bent. No such luck. The injury he suffered was a "ring avulsion," which can be very serious. (Images of it can be disturbing so if you’re at all squeamish, don’t Google the injury.)
This kind of avulsion occurs when a ring is forcefully pulled off a finger, taking skin and underlying tissue with it. (It is also called "degloving," which may give you a mental picture of what happens.) From the emergency room Fallon was sent to another hospital where delicate microsurgery was performed on his hand. The operation took six hours and required removal of a vein from his foot to replace a torn blood vessel in the injured finger. He was fortunate. A 2014 review of 33 cases of ring injuries, including avulsion, found that nine resulted in amputation of the finger. In Fallon’s case, full recovery was expected to take eight weeks after he left the hospital. He was lucky to be in New York with ready access to experienced hand surgeons.
It’s a good idea to take off your rings whenever you’re engaged in any activity that could result in snagging them. A French report on these injuries, published in 2005, recommends removing rings, particularly wedding rings, when you are in a workshop, engaged in DIY activities, working in a laboratory, and whenever you reach up for something without being able to see a possible snag hazard. Kids should not wear rings at playgrounds. The report notes that wearing jewelry is often banned in organized sports and specifically advises taking rings off when playing soccer.
Andrew Weil, M.D.
Ewan Ritchie et al, “Total deglovement of the fourth digit due to ring avulsion injury.” BMJ Case Reports, doi:10.1136/bcr-2013-200866