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In recent years, dozens of hunters have had their fingers or thumb amputated after using a crossbow without a safety guard.

Finger & Thumb Amputation

Finger and thumb amputations are very common injuries associated with the use of crossbows. Many crossbows fire arrows at speeds exceeding 350 feet per second. They are front-heavy and most comfortable to hold with the fingers or thumb pointed upward, above the rail, into the line of fire.

As you can imagine, any finger in the way of the string will be cut off within seconds. This traumatic amputation can damage the skin, bone, nail, nailbed, tendons, and subcutaneous tissue.

The type of treatment depends on the amount of tissue and bone that has been amputated, and the angle of the wound.

Finger and thumb amputation treatments:

  • Minor amputation: If the fingertip wound does not expose the bone, it will probably heal on its own within 3-5 weeks.
  • Large tissue injury: This injury will probably need stitches, surgery, or a skin graft to close the wound.
  • Exposed bone: Large amputations with exposed bone probably will not heal without surgery to close the wound. In some cases, the bone is shortened and the wound is stitched. In other cases, reconstructive surgery is necessary.
  • Skin graft: This surgery involves removing healthy skin from an uninjured part of the finger and transplanting it to the amputated part of the finger. In some cases, the graft is left attached to the donor site while it heals over the wound.
  • Reattachment: This is a long, complex surgery that involves replanting the amputated part of the finger. It is usually only possible when the finger is totally severed and care is taken to preserve the tissue. It should be wrapped in a clean, damp cloth, placed in a sealed plastic bag, and the bag should be placed in an ice water bath.


  • Bleeding
  • Shock
  • Infection
  • Sepsis (blood poisoning)
  • Poor healing
  • Nerve damage
  • Decreased range of motion or flexibility
  • Loss of sense of texture, temperature, etc.
  • Sensitivity to cold
  • Chronic pain
  • Disability


With treatment, the long-term outlook for people who have lost a finger is usually very good. However, prognosis may be poor with the loss of a thumb or multiple fingers. Recovery may last several months. Afterward, physical therapy with a hand specialist is recommended to preserve sensitivity and enable the patient to perform daily tasks.

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