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Caught In A Jam?

Jammed fingers are one of the most common injuries in contact sports, especially in basketball and volleyball. The injury can happen to people doing everyday activities as well. A jammed finger is actually a broad term for any damage that affects the finger’s PIP joint. The injury happens when a blunt force hits the top of the finger. The finger gets compressed toward the hand, damaging the collateral ligaments around the joint. As most athletes can attest, a jammed finger can be painful and requires immediate assistance.

Signs and symptoms

With a jammed finger, the most obvious sign is the pain that happens after hitting the digit.
The finger may also appear out of place or misaligned. In some severe cases, persons will be unable to bend or straighten the digit. There is also pain and swelling in the middle joint, with a clear change in shape compared to the others.

Is it jammed or broken?

A jammed finger can often be confused with a broken finger. Jammed fingers will present sharp pain, swelling, and tenderness that can last for days or weeks. The swelling can go away within a few hours and with treatment. A broken finger, however, would look deformed rather than displaced. In some cases, the bone will be exposed, causing severe pain and consistent swelling. Jammed fingers often stretch or tear the ligament, whereas a broken finger affects the bone. In both cases, seek medical attention immediately.

Start with taping or splinting

In most cases, persons won’t have direct access to a doctor. So some preliminary treatment is required. With a jammed finger during sport, the temptation is there to pull out or realign the digit. This is a common practice seen in professional basketball games. However, pulling on the joint can cause further damage. Instead, make sure to immobilize the finger by buddy taping on to the neighboring digit. A finger splint is also useful for a short time, usually 1-2 days. Both techniques are temporary until the affected person can see a doctor.

Non-surgical treatment can help

After splinting, use ice and rest to reduce swelling and inflammation. Take a rest and use anti-inflammatory drugs to reduce pain. From there, make sure to visit a doctor for an X-ray to rule out fractures. The doctor may recommend physical therapy to help restore the range of motion to the ligaments. In between treatments, keep the finger secured through buddy taping or splinting.

Do I need hand surgery?

Most jammed fingers can heal with non-surgical methods. After a few weeks, the finger should return to normal. Unfortunately, severe injuries may not respond well to these techniques. Although rare, at this point, surgery may be the best option. Using minimally invasive means, an orthopedic surgeon will attempt to clear tissue or attach torn ligaments.

Long-term, non-surgical treatment works

Luckily, almost all jammed finger cases do not need surgery. A combination of splinting and non-surgical treatment work well. However, treatment can take several months for the finger to return to normal. If the pain and swelling persists, speak with a doctor about surgery today.