Recognizing and Treating a Jammed Finger

A jammed finger is an injury that is most often associated with sports, especially basketball and volleyball, but there are still plenty of ways that you can jam a finger outside of the game. If you’re suffering from a digit injury that you suspect could be a jammed finger then you’re probably wondering how to confirm your suspicions and, if you’re right, how you can get yourself on the road to recovery.


The symptoms of a jammed finger can be a little tough to distinguish from an actual broken bone. Either way, the treatment method for both injuries is usually one and the same unless the injured finger has suffered extensive or severe damage. The primary symptom of a jam is swelling and tightness around a joint in the affected finger. The stiffness of the joint will likely make it hard to fully extend the finger and when you try to do so you are probably rewarded with a significant amount of discomfort or pain. Bruising is another common symptom but the amount of bruising that occurs usually depends on how badly the finger has been injured and where the injury is taking place. Immediate and widespread bruising is usually an indicator that a bone has been fractured/broken or that a tendon has taken significant damage. This will also be accompanied by redness, swelling, and excessive warmth emanating from the damaged joint.

What Happens When A Finger Becomes Jammed?

Like many who have suffered from this injury, you probably understand that the condition is usually linked to an impact that occurs against the tip of the finger causing sort of a domino effect to the joints. This is very common in sports like basketball where the ball makes direct and forceful contact with the end of an outstretched finger.

There are many different things that can happen with a “simple” jammed finger. One type of scenario is referred to as drop finger, which involves a tear in the extensor tendon. This tendon lies on top of the finger and is attached to the bone at the tip of your finger. It is responsible for extending or straightening the finger, and when ‘drop finger’ occurs as the result of a finger injury, then the extensor tendon has usually been separated from the fingertip bone which then makes the end of your finger sag or be unable to fully straighten.

The next type of injury is called the boutonniere injury, which again involves the extensor tendon on the back of the finger, only the injury happens in a different part of the tendon. With a boutonniere injury the extensor tendon becomes damaged between the middle knuckle and the lower knuckle located near the palm of the hand. This type of injury results in sagging of the finger that makes it difficult to straighten the finger from the center knuckle.

Another possible scenario is called the sawn neck injury, which involves damage to the volar ligament. This ligament is located at the underside of the finger as is responsible for allowing you to curl and flex your finger. This type of injury usually becomes more obvious after the finger has begun to heal because the ligament isn’t as tight as it should be. This causes the finger to sag or become slightly concave in the middle—giving it the appearance for which it received its name.


For most jammed fingers, the treatment involves the “RICE” approach and a splint. For severe injuries, such as those which produce extensive bruising and swelling, unbearable pain, obvious deformity, or possible dislocation, must be treated by a medical professional because they likely require specialized care. If you are pretty confident that you are dealing with a typical jammed finger then you can probably take care of it on your own. As soon as the injury is detected you should immediately stop what you are doing and rest the finger. If you have an ice pack handy then gently apply that to your injured finger. If you don’t have an ice pack then you can make one using ice, a sandwich bag, and a hand towel.

After about twenty minutes of icing the injury you should wrap it securely with a first aid bandage. Most doctors would recommend that you “buddy wrap” the digit, that is, secure the injured finger by wrapping it with its neighboring finger. If you have injured your thumb then you will have to simply wrap it with a craft stick or medical finger splint. The idea behind splinting the finger is to hinder its movements so that it is forced to rest and heal. It also reduces the chances of the ligament or tendon healing improperly.

Possible Complications

Possible complications can arise when the finger is not treated properly or if it fails to heal correctly. In some cases, failing to go to the doctor can result in neglect of a serious injury, and you certainly don’t want to take that kind of risk when it involves the range of moment of your fingers. If you have any doubt in your mind then it’s probably best to see a doctor for treatment.

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