Hand Injuries – When to See the Doctor
A lot of weekend warriors sustain subtle sports injuries of the finger and shrug it off as “no big deal”. They may think they simply stubbed or sprained their finger. When they come in weeks or a month later, and it’s still not better, they are surprised to find that what seemed like a simple injury, should have had quick trip to the hand specialist when it happened. Some hand injuries need to be treated earlier rather than later to avoid long-term damage to the function of the hand. There are a few types of hand injuries where we encourage individuals to seek care earlier for better outcomes.
A Mallet Injury
A mallet injury is often described as a stubbed finger or a jammed finger. It frequently happens when playing sports. For example, when someone tries to catch a ball and the force stubs the fingertip and forces it to bend. This type of injury can rupture a tendon or even pull off a small piece of the bone. Adults, and especially kids, with this injury should be evaluated by a hand specialist right away. They can determine if there has been injury to the important tendons or bones of the fingers, as if left untreated the tip of the finger droops down and individuals are unable to fully straighten the tip of the injured finger. This type of injury is easy to treat close to when the injury happens but becomes more challenging to treat and restore function at a later time.
If you sustain an animal bite, you should be evaluated by a physician quickly to have it properly cared for. In some cases these need to be cleaned thoroughly, sometimes in the office or emergency department or sometimes even surgically in the operating room. Cat and dog bites have the propensity to become infected. They can even develop into a deep and serious infection, which can worsen very quickly if not addressed right away. It is important to address these injuries when they happen and you’ll be thankful that you can avoid more serious consequences.
Flexor Tendon and Extensor Tendon Injuries
Often known as an avocado injury, because so many people sustain these injuries cutting avocados, they are also frequently seen when people are cutting or chopping other vegetables or meats, and the knife slips and cuts the hand. These injuries need to be evaluated by a hand specialist right away as you can cut through small nerves or blood vessels as well as tendons in the hand, which may affect the function of the hand long-term. The flexor tendon starts in the forearm and goes across the palm-side of the wrist and into the fingers and thumbs. A cut anywhere along that tendon, usually manifests in the inability to bend a finger and needs to be treated immediately. The extensor tendons are on the back side of the hand again start in the forearm and travel over wrist and up fingers on the back side of the hand. Cutting these tendons may result in you being unable to bring your finger straight. Having these injuries treated as soon as possible after injury results in the best outcome. Delay in treatment of these injuries makes them more challenging to treat and can decrease overall functional recovery. Sometimes a tendon graft or tendon transfer may be effective in restoring motion and function, but, overall, if you sustain a cutting injury to your hand or digits that results in any loss of motion in the fingers or thumb, significant pain with motion, loss of feeling, or inability to fully bend or straighten the fingers or thumb, this means you should seek care right away. The sooner you treat these injuries the easier it is to repair and restore as much function as possible.
Fractures in the hand or fingers are usually the result of some traumatic event. A fall, a car accident, or sports injuries are common causes of broken bones. Slamming a finger in a door or having a heavy object fall onto your hand or fingersalso commonly lead to broken hand or finger bones. Signs of a break or fracture can include any deformity in the hand or fingers, severe shooting pain with attempted motion, popping or clicking with motion, or significant swelling. It is always a good idea to get evaluated and treat these injuries early.
Our hands are something we use every day, and often we take them for granted until we lose the ability to use. Injuries to the hand or fingers highlight how difficult even the simplest tasks of daily living can be, such as eating or getting dressed. If you injure your hand or finger, don’t wait. Get it checked out by a hand specialist right away.
Dr Wade Faulk is a orthopedic hand surgeon at Panorama Orthopedics & Spine Center, He evaluates and treats hand injuries in both children and adults. His office is located in Westminster, Colorado,