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Common finger injuries: Simple strains to dislocations

Each finger impacts your hand’s dexterity and ability to respond to a ball or other physical contact during sports play. Too often finger injuries like mallet finger or jersey finger go unreported, or a significant lapse in time occurs between the injury and treatment.

“A quick response to reset a dislocated finger is not enough. Appropriate medical attention can help prevent long-term reduced mobility or stiffness,” said Dr. Steven Sanford, orthopedic hand surgeon at Marshfield Clinic Health System.

RELATED ARTICLE: 3 steps to take after a wrist or hand injury

Example of mallet finger injuryMallet finger

Mallet finger is the inability to extend the joint farthest from the hand (called the distal joint), in any one finger. It occurs because of tearing of the tendon that lies on top of the finger.

“A ball may hit the outstretched fingertip forcing the distal joint to bend,” said Dr. Sanford.

The tip of the finger and distal joint will be painful and will not fully straighten. You should apply ice to the injury and an orthopedic or sports medicine specialist should provide medical evaluation.

Jersey finger

Example of jersey finger injury

Jersey finger is the inability to actively flex the distal joint (joint furthest from the hand) of any one finger. The injury happens either because of a tearing or an avulsion (fracture) of the tendon on the palm side at the end of the finger.

The injury’s name comes from the action that typically causes it: when an athlete grasps another athlete’s jersey.

“This action forces the finger into extension as the athlete is trying to flex it and hold on to their opponent,” Dr. Sanford said.

You should apply ice to the injury, and an orthopedic or sports medicine specialist should provide medical evaluation.

Metac​arpophalangeal (MCP) sprain

Metacarpophalangeal (MCP) sprain is an injury to ligaments surrounding the joint of the finger closest to the hand or MCP joint.

“The injury usually occurs to the collateral ligaments on either side of the joint. Stress to the ligament and joint cause a sprain,” Dr. Sanford said.

It is painful and may include dislocation. Severity is difficult to determine using stress tests usually used for collateral ligament injuries.

You should seek a medical evaluation to determine severity and appropriate treatment, which may include physical therapy.

Example of boutonniere deformity finger injuryBoutonniere deformity

Boutonniere deformity appears as flexion of the second joint and then extension of the distal joint (furthest from the base of the hand).

“The finger resembles an ocean wave with the knuckles up and down,” Dr. Sanford said.

This injury is caused by a rupture of the central extensor tendon, which then changes the balance of the finger tendons.

“Athletes usually describe a longitudinal force as the injury cause, such as being struck with a ball,” Dr. Sanford said.

Pain occurs at the middle joint and the deformity is visible. In chronic cases, the deformity will take time to develop and may not be visible right away.

For acute injury, you should apply ice with medical evaluation as soon as possible. Medical treatment will vary for more chronic cases.

Example of gamekeeper's thumb finger injuryGamekeeper’s thumb

Gamekeeper’s thumb is a sprain to the ulnar collateral ligament (UCL) of the thumb. The UCL is in the web between the thumb and the pointer finger.

The injury can be an acute sprain or from repetitive stress to the ligament.

“Its name comes from the stretching of this ligament suffered by gamekeepers while performing the duty of breaking the necks of small animals while hunting,” Dr. Sanford said.

The injury is usually caused by excessive stretching of the web space between the thumb and pointer finger (hyper abduction) or hyperextension.

The chief complaint is usually pain over the ligament and an inability to forcefully grip or pinch smaller objects. It is an injury commonly seen in skiers and football and basketball players.

Treatment is based on severity. A milder injury may require a splint for four to six weeks, while a complete rupture of the tendon usually requires surgery.

For immediate care for finger injuries, visit Marshfield Clinic Health System.

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2 responses to “Common finger injuries: Simple strains to dislocations”

  1. Seneca

    Great article on common finger injuries! It's so important to understand these types of injuries since they can happen to anyone, whether you're an athlete or not. I found the section on dislocations particularly informative.

    Thanks for sharing these insights!

  2. Free Proxies Download

    Very good write-up. I definitely love this site. Keep writing!

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