Jersey Finger Injury: Prevention and Treatment

January 23, 2023

Jersey Finger Injury

Athletes playing high-contact sports like football and rugby are at increased risk of injury, but one fairly common injury – jersey finger – is one that tends to get overlooked. Orlin & Cohen’s occupational therapists, Briana Ardolino, MOT, OTR/L, CHT and Hamlet Aristy BS/MS, OTR/L, explain what jersey finger is, symptoms and signs of injury, and how to prevent and treat it.

What is a jersey finger injury?

Jersey finger, sometimes referred to as rugby finger, is a tear or rupture of one of the flexor tendons in the hand and impacts your ability to bend your fingertips and grip objects.

As the name implies, jersey finger injuries occur most often when an athlete is gripping the jersey of another player who suddenly pulls away. This action can cause an abrupt extension in the finger from a clenched fist position. As a result, the tendon pulls in two different directions simultaneously, pulling the tendon off the bone at the tip of the finger. Often when the tendon tears with these types of injuries, a small piece of the bone breaks off with it.

While jersey finger tends to be a common injury in football, rugby, and other high-contact sports, it also occurs in rock climbing.

Signs and symptoms of jersey finger

When a jersey finger injury occurs, you may hear or feel a pop in your finger. The injured finger cannot bend at the fingertip, even though the finger may be able to bend at the other joints. You may also experience pain, swelling, or numbness in the fingertip.

Jersey finger injuries occur most commonly in the ring finger, as this finger naturally sticks out the most when the hand is in a fist.

How to prevent jersey finger

Hand stretches before activities can help warm-up muscles in the fingers, hands, and forearms to reduce the risk of jersey finger injuries. Strength and conditioning exercises for your hands can also help.

Football and rugby players, who are most vulnerable to jersey finger injuries, should learn and practice proper form for tackling and defense. Taping fingers together or using a splint can offer additional protection to reduce your risk of injury.

How to treat jersey finger

Treatment of jersey finger depends on the severity of the injury. In most cases, especially when there is a broken bone or fracture, surgery is needed to restore the ability to bend the fingertip.

A hand surgeon will reattach the torn tendon during the procedure and fix any fractures. Surgery is the most effective treatment for thisinjury, as it is the only way to reattach the tendon, allowing patients to begin their recovery faster and regain full range of motion in the finger.

For patients who prefer to avoid surgery, occupational hand therapy can help them regain strength, but they likely will not be able to bend the fingertip without surgical intervention.

At Orlin & Cohen, our top-ranked orthopedists include fellowship-trained hand specialists and surgeons whose experience and expertise can mean a better outcome for you. Your specialist will work closely with our in-house diagnostic team and licensed occupational and certified hand therapists to evaluate your injury and develop a treatment plan tailored to you, your goals, and your lifestyle.

Learn more about reducing the risk of athletic and sports-related injuries.