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About jersey fingers

Jersey finger, also known as “rugby finger,” is a type of finger injury that occurs when the flexor tendon is avulsed (torn away) from the bone at the base of the finger. This finger injury commonly happens during sports activities, especially those involving grabbing or gripping, such as rugby, oz-tag or rock climbing.

The finger injury typically occurs when a person grabs onto an opponent’s jersey or clothing, leading to a forceful hyperextension of the distal interphalangeal (DIP) joint. This force can result in the avulsion of the flexor tendon from its insertion point on the distal phalanx (finger bone), often causing pain, swelling, and difficulty in flexing the affected finger.

Jersey finger is a serious finger injury that usually requires hand surgery to reattach the torn tendon to the bone. It also requires a period of rehabilitation to restore strength and functionality to the affected finger. Early diagnosis and treatment can contribute to a better outcome for the injury.

Signs and symptoms

The signs and symptoms of jersey finger include:

  • Pain: There is often immediate pain at the tip of the finger, particularly when attempting to move the affected finger.

  • Swelling: Swelling around the injured area is common and may be noticeable soon after the injury occurs.

  • Bruising: Bruising or discoloration of the skin around the affected finger may develop due to internal bleeding.

  • Inability to bend the finger: One of the hallmark signs is the inability to bend the tip joint of the affected finger.

  • Deformity: In some cases, there may be a visible deformity of the affected finger, particularly if the tendon avulsion has caused the distal phalanx to be pulled out of its normal position.

Jersey finger

Treatment

Jersey finger is typically treated through hand surgery, as the torn flexor tendon needs to be reattached to the bone for proper healing. The specific surgery plan may vary based on the severity of the injury, when injury occurred, the particular tendon involved, and individual patient factors. Here is an overview of the typical treatment process:

  • Medical Evaluation: A Hand Surgeon will conduct a thorough examination of the injured finger. X-rays or other imaging studies may be ordered to assess the extent of the injury and rule out any associated fractures.

  • Surgery: Surgical intervention is the primary treatment for jersey finger. The procedure involves reattaching the torn flexor tendon to the bone.

  • Postoperative Care: After surgery, the patient is placed in a splint or cast to immobilise the finger and protect the repaired tendon. The duration of immobilisation may vary but is often followed by a period of controlled movement to prevent stiffness.

  • Hand Therapy: Rehabilitation is a crucial aspect of the recovery process. Hand Therapy is initiated early to improve range of motion, scar thickness, swelling strength, and function of the affected finger. The goal would be to return to sport and work with full function of the finger.

  • Monitoring and Follow-Up: Regular follow-up appointments with the Hand Surgeon and Hand Therapist are essential to monitor the progress of healing. X-rays may be taken to assess the healing of the tendon and the overall condition of the finger.

If you suspect you have a jersey finger injury, it’s important to consult with a healthcare professional for proper diagnosis and treatment options based on your condition. Contact one of our Sydney hand clinics – our Hand Therapists would be happy to see you for an assessment.