Hands are one of the most intricate parts of the human body. Approximately one quarter of all our body’s bones are found in the hand. These are moved by more than 30 muscles inside our hand. There are also three main nerves that supply the muscles and skin of the hand and more than 17,000 touch receptors that relay information from the hand to our brain.1
There are so many structures that can be damaged from injury and when these structures are injured the ability of the hand to perform grasping, reaching, manipulating and touching can become impaired. Simple activities such as writing, tying your shoes, opening your car door or holding your toddler’s hand can become impossible. Since our hands are always moving, reaching, grasping and releasing they are exposed to many dangers. Here are some of the common injuries that can occur to our fingertips as well as recommendations to keep those tips in “Tip Top Shape.”
Medically known as mallet finger. A mallet finger is a disruption to the end of the tendon that straightens the tip of your finger. This injury typically occurs after jamming, cutting the back of your hand or crushing your fingertip. After the injury you will notice that the fingertip droops with an inability to actively straighten it out. Mallet fingers can often be treated conservatively or may require surgery depending on the structures that were damaged. Conservative treatment will consist of use of a finger splint to hold the fingertip straight for eight weeks. A skilled occupational/hand therapist can ensure that you are compliant with splint use, educated on skin care, and instructed on safely weaning from the splint to resume normal motion and function. Surgical treatment may be indicated if there is a presence of a large bony fragment and/or if the fracture involves the joint causing misalignment.
Also known as jersey finger and most often affects the ring finger. This injury presents with the inability to bend the fingertip down when making a fist. This injury typically occurs in sports such as football when the player catches his finger in another player’s jersey while trying to grasp it. After the injury you will notice inability to actively bend the tip of the fingertip down due to the tendon pulling off of the bone. This injury will require surgery followed by fabrication of a splint to protect the newly repaired tendon as well as very specific exercises to avoid stiffness and scarring from setting in.
Occur when our fingertips get caught in doors, bad aim when using a hammer or dropping something heavy on the hand. These injuries can result in fractures, nail bed cuts that can impact future nail growth or even partial amputation. When any of the latter occur, it is imperative to seek medical intervention. When we crush our fingertips without observing something as severe as an amputation we often will try to ignore it and self-treat. However seeking the advice of a trained professional is always a good idea. For example, if there is an underlying fracture that does not get diagnosed it can lead to misalignment, lack of healing (non-union) or arthritis. All of these can result in future pain, chronic swelling and loss of function.
These can happen with any activity involving a sharp object, but recently have increased due to the popularity of avocados and difficulty when removing the pit (stay tuned for our upcoming blog on this topic). A slip of the knife when cutting that avocado can result in damage to the skin, arteries, nerves and tendons of the fingertip. People often think if they can get the bleeding to stop on their own there is no need for medical intervention, but it’s not until much later when you realize you can’t bend the tip of your finger or you have lost feeling on one side of your finger. Surgical treatment may be necessary to repair the lacerated structures followed by therapy to help restore motion and provide techniques to ensure normal feeling returns.
Fingertip injuries should not be ignored as they can result in significant impairment, which interferes with one of our most intricate parts of the body. If you suffer from a fingertip injury and are unsure on the course of treatment to take, contact an Athletico occupational therapist who specializes in treatment of hand injuries. Our experts can answer your questions to guide you through the proper treatment.
The Athletico blog is an educational resource written by Athletico employees. Athletico bloggers are licensed professionals who abide by the code of ethics outlined by their respective professional associations. The content published in blog posts represents the opinion of the individual author based on their expertise and experience. The content provided in this blog is for informational purposes only, does not constitute medical advice and should not be relied on for making personal health decisions.
1. Institute for Quality and Efficiency in Health Care. “Homepage.” Homepage, Institute for Quality and Efficiency in Health Care (IQWiG, Germany), 16 Feb. 2021, www.informedhealth.org/.
2. Cologne, Germany: Institute for Quality and Efficiency in Healthcare: (IQWiG) 2006 How do hands work? (IQWiG) 2006.