A jersey finger is an injury to the flexor tendon of the finger. The flexor tendon pulls the finger down into the palm as you contract the flexor muscles of the forearm. The injury occurs at the tip of the finger, and typically the tendon snaps back to the base of the finger or even into the palm of the hand.
Symptoms of a Jersey FingerAn athlete who has sustained a jersey finger will be unable to bend the finger down into the palm of the hand. This is usually an obvious injury as the fingers normally rest in a partly flexed position. If you set your hand on the table at rest, the normal posture of the hand is a position similar to if you were to be holding a glass. The reason is that the tendons flexing (bending) and extending (straightening) your finger are balanced. Therefore the finger assumes this partly bent position. When the flexor tendon is injured, the finger will straighten excessively at rest. At rest, patients with a jersey finger will notice one finger straightened out unexpectedly.
Treatment of a Jersey FingerAs mentioned previously, the injured tendon snaps back all the way to the base of the finger, or perhaps even further. Therefore, if the injury is to be corrected, a surgical procedure is necessary. The surgery performed must accomplish the following general steps:
- Locate the tendon at the base of the finger or in the palm
- Thread the tendon through the finger in the proper position
- Securely reattach the tendon to the tip of the finger
Jersey Finger RehabilitationAfter surgery, patients will work with a hand therapist to regain the motion of the finger. Flexor tendons have a tendency to become very stiff and scarred, and therefore working with a therapist is important. Even if appropriate hand therapy is done, stiffness is not an unusual complication of jersey finger surgery.
Early on in your therapy, you will be instructed on specific methods to move the tendons without pulling on the site of the repair. Return to tackling sports is usually delayed until complete healing has occurred, often 4-6 months.
Peterson JJ, Bancroft LW. "Injuries of the fingers and thumb in the athlete" Clin Sports Med. 2006 Jul;25(3):527-42