On June 26, Tonight Show host Jimmy Fallon tweeted, “Tripped and caught my fall (good thing!) Ring caught on side of table almost ripped my finger off (bad thing).”
Plastic surgeon David T. Chiu spent six hours working under a Christmas-tree-sized microscope to salvage the finger. After ten days in the ICU and a couple of weeks off work, Mr. Fallon returned to the show and recounted his story.
In his own words, “Apparently the odds aren’t great.” Even if the finger isn’t amputated, it’s usually stiff and intolerant of cold.
Golden Ring: Long Marriage, Short Finger?
Though most rings are harmless, 150,000 ring avulsion injuries occur in the U.S. every year. Wedding rings, like Jimmy Fallon’s, are the number one culprit for ring avulsions. (Marriage doesn’t seem to be a risk factor.)
To avoid injury, it helps to understand how a ring can strip the soft tissue from a finger. Two things happen:
- A ring catches on something
- Either the ring moves and the finger doesn’t, or the finger moves and the ring doesn’t.
If a ring fits, it sits straight on the finger. To remove it, the we arer twists or slides it off without significantly altering its position relative to the finger.
If you’re wearing a ring, move it at an angle as if it were hooked on a nail. Now try removing it. You can’t–the ring’s new geometric relationship with the finger obstructs its excursion.
But if you were to add a strong force (and please don’t!), the ring could strip the flesh right off the bone.
Many married microsurgeons, after seeing a few ring avulsions, remove their rings for good.
9 Rules for 10 Fingers
Here are a few guidelines that might save a finger.
- The No-Thumb-Ring Rule: Thumbs are a treasured upgrade from other species; best not to tempt a downgrade.
- The Handyman’s Rule: Take off all rings around moving machinery.
- The Escaping Prisoner’s Rule: Don’t climb fences while wearing a ring.
- The Jumper’s Rule: Don’t jump and bang on street signs with a ringed finger.
- The Dog Walker’s Rule: Wrap the leash around the other hand.
- The Children’s Rule: Take off rings in amusement parks and playgrounds; they can get caught in metal bars .
- The Microsurgeon’s Rule: String your ring on a gold chain necklace.
- The Jimmy Fallon rule: Avoid falling, and burn all braided rugs.
- The Always Beware Rule: Ring avulsions can happen when gardening, moving boxes, playing sports, stepping out of busses, reaching for conveyor belts, holding reins, and, well, just living life.
Got it? Then High Five! (Don’t turn that into a High Four.)