Jammed Fingers- What can be done?

December 23, 2015

A ball hits an outstretched finger, causing the fingertip to droop. Despite your best effort, you are unable to make the finger straighten out! This is not an uncommon injury. Most often we think it is just jammed and will straighten out on its own with a little time. Only if it begins to hurt or a few weeks (or months) pass by without improvement do we become concerned enough to seek out medical treatment. When evaluated, the doctor may tell you that you have what is called a Mallet finger. This occurs when the tendon in the end of the finger becomes disrupted or torn from the bone. A portion of bone can even be broken off with the tendon in some cases. Mechanism of injury can be trauma such as a ball hitting a finger tip or something as simple as scrubbing a counter top and having the fingertip be forecefully bent. Non-sports injuries are actually more common in women with a history of osteoporosis.

In most instances, immobilization of the joint for 6-8 weeks continuously will allow the tendon to re-attach itself. (Continuous means 24-7!) After 6 to 8 weeks the splint is worn only at night for an additional few weeks. If the finger begins to droop again after weaning from the splint, splinting will have to be resumed immediately. If the splinting regimen is not successful, internal splinting is done where percutaneous K-wire is inserted to maintain the extension of the fingertip. In the event that x-ray shows a bone fragment of significant size, it may be necessary to have surgery to place a screw in the bone to hold the fracture more securely. Even if you do not seek out medical attention immediately, it is possible that the finger will heal once immobilized. However, the longer out from injury, the higher the risk of not being successful with just splinting. Formal therapy after being splinted is usually limited to a home program of active exercise.
Don't want to bothered with it? Be warned! Left untreated, the mallet finger deformity can progress to an even greater deformity that involves the next joint (PIP joint). So be careful with your hands as you play sports or even clean house. For more information 

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