The occurrence of finger injuries is quite common in sport and surprisingly receives little attention.
The fingers are vulnerable during sporting activity to such injuries as sprains, strains, dislocations and ligament tears. These finger injuries can occur from impact with another opponent or teammate, sudden contact with a ball, a fall or abrupt stretching of the finger. Players do not commonly wear protective hand padding as it can restrict hand and finger movement during play, especially for ball handling sports; therefore the probability of a finger injury occurring is quite high.
What’s the damage?
Sprain/Strain – obvious signs of a sprain or strain is if the finger is severely painful, swollen, discoloured and/or relatively immobile. Stop playing sport immediately after spraining your finger and seek medical assistance.
If the injury is only slight the RICER first aid procedure can be appropriate.
R – Rest the injured part for at least 48-72 hours as continued activity will increase bleeding and damage.
I – Ice (crushed ice, or cold pack, in wet towelling), apply for 20 mins every 2 hours for the first 48-72 hours. Ice reduces swelling, pain and bleeding.
C – Compression, apply a firm, wide bandage over the injured area. Ensure the bandage is not too tight. Applying a bandage will reduce bleeding and swelling, and will provide support for the injured area.
E – Elevation, raise injured area above the level of the heart at all times. Elevating the injured area reduces bleeding, swelling and pain. A pillow can be used for support.
R – Referral, as soon as possible after injury arrange to see a qualified health professional such as a doctor or physiotherapist. This will determine the extent of your injury and provide advice on treatment and rehabilitation.
If you’d like additional information on injury management in general, you can read more here.
“Buddy” taping is another useful way to mend a slightly sprained finger by taping the injured finger to one of its adjacent partners. This protects the injured finger to a certain extent by its neighbours, and may enable the player to start playing again more quickly. Only “buddy” tape on the advice of your doctor or first aider.
Dislocation – Firstly, get the joint restored to its normal position by a medical professional. Do not allow an inexperienced person to try and straighten out the finger as they may end up causing more harm than good. It is always best to seek assistance from a doctor.
Fracture – Symptoms of a broken finger usually consist of severe pain, an inability or difficulty in moving the finger, or deformity at the fracture site. If a fracture occurs stop play immediately and seek advice from a medical professional.
Preventing finger injuries is difficult as the incident usually occurs suddenly and in some instances wearing protective equipment can be unsuitable during play. Try and protect your fingers whenever possible, for example cricket batting practice. Learn and use appropriate hand techniques that will protect your fingers, for example catching styles.
Take Finger Injuries Seriously
We can sometimes be dismissive of finger injuries – especially if the damage seems minor and is on our non-preferred hand. However, all finger injuries should be taken seriously and treated by medical professionals.
Trauma, such as fractures, is a major contributor to arthritis in fingers in later life, so prompt and effective treatment of any injury is important. If you’d like to know more about the connection between arthritis and finger fractures etc, you can read more here.