Jersey Finger: Treatment For a Common Contact Sport Injury

Posted by Lori Algar OTD, OTR/L, CHT on Tue, Sep 17,2019 @ 10:45 AM

what is jersery finger and how to treat itWith the NFL season off to a strong start, it's highly likely that many players are starting to sustain injuries not only to their knees, shoulders and ankles but also to their hands. Jersey Finger is an injury that primarily occurs in football and other contact sports. As we roll into the football season, this may be a good time to review what jersey finger is and how it's treated.     

What is Jersey Finger?

Jersey finger injury is a traumatic rupture of the flexor digitorum profundus (FDP) tendon from its point of attachment at the base of the distal phalanx. The FDP tendon is primarily responsible for flexing the distal interphalangeal (DIP) joint. Jersey finger occurs when there is a strong contraction of the FDP tendon that is resisted by a force into DIP hyperextension, such as occurs when a player grabs another player’s jersey while that player is pulling away. Because the FDP is the only tendon that flexes the DIP joint, a jersey finger injury with a full rupture of the tendon causes loss of active DIP joint flexion.

The ring finger is the finger most commonly involved in a jersey finger injury with an estimated involvement in 75% of cases. This is said to be related to the ring digit being 5 millimeters more prominent during grip in approximately 90% of people.

How is Jersey Finger Treated?

When there is a full avulsion of the FDP tendon, surgical repair or re-attachment is required often with anchoring of the tendon back to the bone. After surgery, flexor tendon care requires treatment with a hand therapist. Close communication with the referring physician is required as there are many potential protocols to rehab flexor tendon injuries. The protocol selection depends on the physician and therapist’s preference, quality of the repair, adherence of the patient, and the available resources. With a partial tear of the tendon, physicians may also request that a conservative flexor tendon program is followed.

An injury to a flexor tendon often necessitates an orthosis fabricated by a hand therapist. All orthoses for flexor tendon injuries should support the hand in a position to protect the tendon and encourage most appropriate healing for the soft tissue. The orthosis should not cause redness or irritation to the skin. Oval-8 Finger Splints are a great solution as they can be fabricated with a heat gun. A heat gun is a "must have" for fabricating or custom fitting thermoplastic splints.

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