A finger injury is rather common and quite prevalent in ball sports. Ask any athlete – you only realise how much you use something when you cannot use it.

Finger dislocations in the sporting world are usually seen as minor injuries by the athlete or coach where, in fact, if not managed effectively, they could result in recurring dislocations or immobility of the affected finger(s).

How a finger can get injured

High velocity impact to the tip of the finger is the most common mechanism of injury to the finger. The high impact causes the finger to bend further back than it should, causing injury to the joints within the finger. An avulsion injury may also be sustained with these types of injuries – this is when the ligament around the joint is put under stress and strain and pulls a piece of bone off the joint.

Management of a finger injury

Athlete themselves, coach or team doctor/physiotherapist often attend to an injury when it happens. The easiest method is to immobilise the injured finger by ‘buddy-strapping’ it to the finger next to it.

The goals of managing an injured finger are:

  1. Reducing the dislocation by protecting it from further movement and keeping it there, before a specialists uses an X-Ray to put the finger back in the correct place.
  2. Maintaining mobility in the finger without compromising stability.

Studies have found that prolonged immobilisation of the finger for as little as four weeks can result in permanent stiffness. Dislocations (with or without avulsion fractures) are thus managed in a splint which allows for early mobility.

Finger Injury Rehabilitation overview

A doctor will give you a splint for your finger so that you cannot straighten it completely.  It can take up to three months to be back to its normal strength. it is important for you to do rehabilitation for your injured finger, as this joint tends to get stiff quickly.

Initially, you may experience a lot of swelling which contributes to stiffness in the joint, so you will be advised to keep it elevated to alleviate the swelling.
Later in the recovery process, it is important to start moving the finger by doing specific exercises prescribed to you by your physiotherapist. The exercises will progress until normal range and strength are restored.

This article was prepared by Grethe Geldenhuys from the Paulshof Practice of Lamberti Physiotherapy. If you would like to have a finger injury or dislocation treated, contact her directly or else complete this online appointment form.

References

  1. Freiberg A. (2007). Management of proximal interphalangeal joint injuries. The Canadian journal of plastic surgery = Journal canadien de chirurgie plastique, 15(4), 199-203.
  2. Carruthers, K. H., Skie, M., & Jain, M. (2016). Jam Injuries of the Finger: Diagnosis and Management of Injuries to the Interphalangeal Joints Across Multiple Sports and Levels of Experience. Sports health, 8(5), 469-78.
  3. Peimer, Clayton A. et al.Palmar dislocation of the proximal interphalangeal joint. Journal of Hand Surgery , Volume 9 , Issue 1 , 39 – 48