Finger degloving: a good reason not to wear your wedding ring
Few climbers are aware that wearing any kind of ring is extremely dangerous when climbing. There is an extremely high risk of ripping your finger off if the ring gets stuck on a hold. This is called “finger degloving”. And is a very difficult injury to fix from a surgical point of view.
In fact, degloving injury of the hand and fingers is one of the most severe and debilitating hand injuries. And an operation of choice is yet to be found. Degloving, also called avulsion, is a type of severe injury that happens when the top layers of your skin and tissue are ripped from the underlying muscle, connective tissue, or bone.
If the ring remains stuck on the hold, it can completely strip the finger. And can even amputate it given enough strain. The skin slides up, blood vessels and nerves are ripped. And there is a risk of fracture or even bone displacement, either at the proximal or distal interphalangial joint.
If the finger is completely ripped off, reattaching it is an extremely delicate procedure. It requires a surgical operation within 6 hours of the accident, on the assumption that the severed finger was cleaned appropriately and stored in a bag of ice. Regardless, it should be noted that the climber may have a severe functional handicap for life.
This type of accident, which is fortunately rare, can often be avoided by having a zero-tolerance attitude to rings when climbing.
Ring finger can also occur if the climber isn’t wearing a ring. For example if he sticks his/her finger in a bolt loop or tries to catch hold of a quick-draw while falling. Other amputations have happened when a loop of slack tightens round the finger, as the climber tries to catch the rope during a fall. Here’s our advice: trust your belayer to deal with it!