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Published on July 17th, 2011 | by Papa Doc

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Ask A Doctor: In A Jam

This column provides a general overview of Roller Derby medical problems and their initial treatment, and it is not intended for advice for an individual. Therefore, you must consult appropriate medical professionals for advice in treating any injury or medical problem that you specifically have. This manual is not intended to be a complete or final guide to medical treatment of anyone’s individual medical injury or problem.

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Q: I often jam or injure my fingers during practice. How can I tell if my finger is broken or seriously hurt, or if I need to see a doctor? How can I treat a broken finger? Can a doctor do anything for it? What are the risks of not treating a broken finger?

A: Great question! First, compare the injured finger with the opposite hand same finger–if there is obvious deformity, see a doc. If not, the most important clues to a fracture are: local tenderness in one area of bone, rapid bruising, rapid swelling, inability to move the finger without quite severe pain. If there is no obvious deformity, the next thing you should do is to keep the finger straight out and gently push in on the tip–if that causes major pain, a fracture is more likely. And you should see a doctor.

Jammed fingers are common. While there is often swelling around a joint, there is not as much bruising and the pain is moderate. Also, with a fracture or jam, you can often move the finger but the fracture is more painful. If there is a fracture (confirmed by x-ray), the treatment depends on the degree of fracture.

Milder degrees are treated with simple finger splints for several weeks. If there is displacement of bone, especially into a joint, surgery could be needed. If there is not a lot of swelling or bruising, if there is no obvious deformity, and the pain is moderate and relieved easily with ice and over-the-counter pain medicine, you can buddy tape the injured finger to the next finger, ice and elevate it, and wait a day.

If the symptoms are worse, see a doc. If the pain is getting less even with motion of the finger, more likely it’s a jam. With a jam, you can buddy tape the finger for 7 -10 days, along with icing and elevation, and it’s likely to get better. The danger of not treating a fracture is limitation of motion (if near a joint) or deformity of the finger which could lead to decreased function–that is, the finger is crooked and doesn’t perform dexterously. -Papa Doc

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