Broken fingers are a common injury, with many scenarios capable of causing them. The finger is the most frequently injured part of the human hand. Fingers contain no muscles and are constructed of three bones known as phalanges, as well as ligaments and tendons with their movement controlled by the muscles located in the forearms. This makes them susceptible to breaks and fractures under the right conditions.
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Broken fingers often occur when a person is playing sports. In baseball a thrown or batted ball that makes direct contact with an exposed finger can cause a break, especially one that hits a finger that is extended. Likewise, a basketball can cause a broken finger when it is mishandled on a pass or when it comes off the backboard on a rebound and strikes an outstretched finger. Hockey pucks and footballs can both easily break a finger. Quarterbacks have been known to break their pinky finger when they release the football and their follow through brings their hand down onto a defensive player's helmet.
Other causes of a broken finger include falls and accidents. People attempting to break a fall with outstretched hands can suffer a broken finger as their hand hits the ground or another object in the way of the fall. Slamming a finger accidentally in a car door or a window is a frequent cause of a broken finger. Broken fingers can also be precipitated by collisions or by having them forcefully twisted. Older adults are at risk of broken fingers as well as other bone fractures when they have a condition called osteoporosis, which results in brittle bones that are prone to breaking when stressed. Poor nutrition and some types of bone disease also can make a finger easily vulnerable to being broken.
In most cases the symptoms of a broken finger will be quite obvious. Immediate pain that can be tremendous is a symptom as the broken finger reacts to whatever trauma may have caused it. There can be swelling and the entire finger can become very tender. Severely broken fingers may actually have the bone break through the skin, with bleeding and immediate bruising evident. A broken finger can become deformed and eventually the finger will become so stiff when it is broken that it will be difficult at best to move. Someone attempting to bend a broken finger will usually find that they cannot but in some instances they may be able to bend and move it a little while they experience some pain. Badly broken fingers may cause neighbouring fingers to also swell up and make the part of the hand affected numb.
When someone suspects that they may have a broken finger they should seek medical treatment. A splint can be utilised to keep the finger immobile, with something as simple as a Popsicle stick and some tape able to keep a finger from moving when it is broken until it can be examined. Ice can help to keep the swelling down when a broken finger occurs. Doctors will use X-rays to determine if a finger is broken and how severely the situation is. Broken fingers that come through the skin are at risk of not only excessive bleeding but also infections.
Minor breaks in a finger can be dealt with by either splinting the finger or taping it to another finger to keep it immobile until it has a chance to heal. The treatment will depend on where the break is and what bones of the finger are involved. Badly broken fingers may require surgery to put the bones back into their proper place. This may require anaesthesia. In some cases doctors will need to employ pins, plates, and/or screws to keep the bones of a finger in place so they can heal. Most fingers can heal in as little as 6 weeks, with exercise to strengthen them after they have healed an important part of the process.
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