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When you pull up search results for freak medical accidents, Jimmy Fallon’s 2015 ring avulsion incident frequently makes the list. Ring avulsion describes what happens when a ring is wrenched violently off the finger after snagging on an object. As it is torn from the finger, it can rip up and strip off tendons, muscles and bones along the way. 

Before you panic, you should know that ring avulsion is rare and that most avulsion cases fall into the mild category. Reading statistics about deaths from rolling out of bed or getting crushed by vending machines can also be frightening, but that doesn’t mean you need to start sleeping on your yoga mat or stop eating snacks altogether. If the idea of freak medical accidents freaks you out, rest assured that there is a reason that rings are the trusted symbol of steadfast companionship. And if it makes you feel better, you can wait to read on until you’ve ordered one of those silicone wedding bands that stretches when it snags.

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But if you want to learn more about ring avulsion so that you can further reduce the likelihood of it happening to you, press ahead.

Still with us? One of the worst case scenarios is called “degloving.” We’re begging you not to do an image search on this. Let’s just say that it’s like struggling out of your winter gloves, only your finger is the glove. Again, that’s the extreme end of the ring avulsion spectrum. Just as there are three degrees of burns, there are three classes of ring avulsion. Class 1: Blood is still moving through the finger. In Class 2, circulation through the finger has ceased, so the vessels might need to be surgically reconnected. Class 3 means that the finger has been stripped down to the bone and extreme medical intervention (amputation, in some instances) may be necessary.

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Severe cases are usually the product of a dangerous environment or intense activity rather than a property of the ring itself. High speeds and heavy metals ratchet up the risk factor. Scaling a chain-link fence or slamming home a vicious dunk. Operating heavy machinery on the factory floor or exercise equipment at your home gym. The kind of places where you should be already minding your shirt sleeves and shoelaces. If you know beforehand that you are going to be dipping your ring finger into danger, consider removing your ring as a precautionary measure. 

Most people who choke to death on ballpoint pens do that because they have been chewing on the cap, not because they wrote too many thank you notes. So being aware of dangerous environments is the best way to prevent ring avulsion. 

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On the other hand, as Fallon can testify, even a braided rug and a countertop can become a dangerous environment and it's easy to forget to remove a ring that sits so naturally on your finger. Accidents happen. So just as measures preventing choking are a part of pen cap construction, avulsion repulsion is a feature of ring design. Owning designated rings for working out, like the silicone rings we mentioned earlier, give you an added layer of protection. Not to mention a more comfortable fit and an easier clean. That’s why so many medical professionals, like the doctors who provide ring avulsion diagnoses, are wearing silicone rings as well.

Discover When Exactly to Take Off an Engagement Ring

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