The Jammed Finger

The “jammed finger” is a description of an injury that can produce a wide variety of damage to your finger. Typically, the finger is impacted by an object or the finger impacts something else while it is moving. The contact can be from a ball, hitting another player, or hitting a stationary object. It only takes a split second and you will know it right away!

The damage to the finger from the injury is a bit more complicated. The result can be anything from a momentary stinger to a broken and dislocated finger! The force of the impact does not need to be violent to break a tendon, a ligament, or the bone itself.

The most common injury is to the joint in the middle of your finger. This amazing joint is  highly specialized, and therefore, very easily injured. Think about that little joint: it bends to 120 degrees and can carry 50 pounds! It has a very thick pad on the bottom (the volar plate) and ligaments on either side. When the finger gets jammed, often the middle joint rotates and tears one of the ligaments and the thick pad on the bottom, often breaking off a piece of bone in the process. This “volar plate injury” and the broken bone with it is one of the most common injuries people get. Typically, they heal on their own without much treatment and afterwards, the middle joint commonly will no longer straighten up all the way. Such a specialized joint is easily made stiff!

So, what should you do after the jam?

Your first instinct is a good one: grab the finger and hold it firmly! This simple action will stabilize it and help with the initial pain. Once you can think about what to do, gently pull on the finger and straighten it out. For almost any finger injury, this motion will realign the tissues safely. The best and easiest time to straighten it out is right away! Even if the finger is broken or dislocated, if you can gently straighten it out, it will be in a better position to start the healing process .

Once you straighten the finger out, take a look! If it looks straight, try to move it. If you can bend and straighten it without much pain, it may simply have gotten banged hard.

If the finger is a bit crooked, or is painful to move, an x-ray is needed to determine if it is broken. Even broken fingers can move quite a lot but will heal crooked and get stiff! If a joint is dislocated, it needs to be put back as soon as possible if it is to continue working long term. Get the finger checked out right away.

Once we know what is damaged, most jammed fingers can be treated with a splint or even simply bracing it to the next finger. Almost always some exercises will be needed to get the finger moving again. If the finger is stiff, a certified hand therapist has the knowledge and tools to get it working properly.

Taking quick care of your jammed finger will help get it, and you back in the game!

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