A particular type of finger sprain known as a jammed finger is a common injury for ball sport athletes, such as basketball and volleyball players. The risk for a jammed finger is greatest when attempting to catch or hit a ball.

A jammed finger occurs when a blunt force strikes the end of the finger. This impact hyperextends the ligament that connects across the middle knuckle of the finger—known as the proximal interphalangeal (PIP) joint—causing the ligament to stretch or tear.

Recognizing a Jammed Finger

Common symptoms of a jammed finger include:

  • Pain in the finger’s PIP joint, which can be dull and mild for a slight sprain or sharp and throbbing for a severe sprain
  • Swelling and redness in the PIP joint, which may be more evident when comparing the affected finger with the others
  • Difficulty bending the finger or gripping objects, but the finger can still be bent

If the sprain is severe and the joint has become displaced, the finger may also look crooked or out of joint. It is a common misconception that the individual or a coach should attempt to “pull it out” to realign it—this is not the case. Rather, the finger should be splinted and the person should seek medical attention.

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The Difference Between a Jammed and Broken Finger

The same blunt trauma forces that can sprain a finger can also cause a fracture, and it is important to know how to tell the difference between the two.

There are a few distinct symptoms that can help differentiate these injuries:

Jammed Finger Broken Finger
Mild to moderate pain Severe pain
Finger able to bend Finger unable to bend
Swelling recedes after a few hours Swelling persists

Jammed fingers can be treated at home through self-care, but fractures require assessment by a physician. Individuals in doubt about a potential fracture should seek medical treatment.

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