What Is Ring Avulsion?

Jimmy Fallon's ring avulsion injury required six hours of micro-surgery to repair. But it could have been worse... (Photo: The Tonight Show)

Go ahead and say the words "ring avulsion" out loud. Sounds pretty bad, right? You have no idea.

This new addition to everyone's personal "Horrible Injury Lexicon" comes courtesy of Jimmy Fallon, who earlier this week returned to his "Tonight Show" hosting duties following a 10-day stay in a hospital intensive care unit.

As he explains it, Fallon was in his kitchen on June 26 when he tripped on a braided rug and snagged his ring finger on a countertop as he fell. The resulting injury required six hours of micro-surgery and a vein from Fallon's foot to repair.

"It’s a thing called ring avulsion," Fallon said. "A-V-U-L-S-I-O-N. If you Google it, it’s graphic images. Don’t Google it. But ring avulsion, it’s a real thing...”

Let's definitely not Google it. But in the interest of science, here's what you need to know. (I'll try and keep the gore imager to a minimum, but for those who are squeamish, I'd recommend this article on cute puppy videos instead.)

1. Ring avulsion is one of the most devastating and common finger injuries.

There are roughly 150,000 incidents of ring avulsion (also known more horribly as a form of "de-gloving") in the U.S. each year. Believe it or not, the most common cause is purported to be when a person is getting down from a bus or truck the ring catches on a metallic projection. The person's weight multiplied by acceleration results in severe damage. Injuries are grouped into three classes. At least one doctor estimated that Fallon suffered a Class II ring avulsion.

"Grade two injuries are where the nerves and arteries and sometimes the veins are torn so the blood flow to the finger gets pulled off," Dr. David Schnur told 9News.com. "Those are difficult to fix. With those, you will have to take a vein from somewhere else to repair the artery and sometimes the vein as well."

Doctors estimate it will take eight weeks before Fallon feels sensation again in his ring finger.

2. It doesn't take a whole lot of force to cause serious harm.

The skin is the finger's strongest part, but it can only handle so much. A 1999 study on the biomechanics of ring avulsion injuries found that less than 18 pounds of force could cause a Class I ring avulsion injury. Only 35 pounds could result in a more serious Class III, with a general outcome of permanent amputation.

"The odds aren't great with this kind of thing; usually they just cut your finger off," the 40-year-old comedian said.

3. The best way to avoid injury is to either not wear a ring or take it off during high-risk activities.

Fallon jokes in his story that he's now been inspired to create some kind of ring that shatters when subjected to force. While he's working on that, you should know that the best way to avoid this kind of gruesome injury is to not wear a ring. Look online and you'll see plenty of horror stories involving rings — as well as paramedics urging people to avoid wearing them if possible. As some have suggested, if the rings means that much, consider a tattoo of a ring instead.

As for Fallon, he recently told TMZ that he will eventually wear his wedding ring again, but this time as part of a necklace.

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