Jersey finger is a tear in one of the tendons in your hand. Tendons are strong bands of tissue that connect muscle to bones. The tendon that usually tears is called a flexor tendon. Flexor tendons attach muscles in your hand to the bones near the tips of your fingers. Flexor tendons are used to flex or bend your fingers. For example, you use your flexor tendons when you make a fist.
What is the cause?
Jersey finger happens in sports like football–for example, if you grab your opponent’s jersey and close your fist. If your hand is then forced open, the stress can pull the tendon off the bone, tear a small piece of bone off the finger, or tear the tendon itself. The finger injured most often is the ring finger because it is usually weaker than the other fingers.
Sometimes a flexor tendon is injured when you have a cut on the palm of your hand.
What are the symptoms?
Symptoms may include:
Feeling a pop or snap when the injury happens
Pain, swelling, or bruising of your palm or fingers
Being unable to bend a finger without help–in particular, the tip of the finger at the last knuckle
A lump in the palm of your hand if the torn tendon bunches up
How is it diagnosed?
Your healthcare provider will examine you and ask about your symptoms, activities, and medical history. You may have X-rays or other scans.
How is it treated?
A torn flexor tendon must be repaired with surgery. With surgery you will be able to bend your finger.
Before surgery you may need to wear a splint and keep your hand up on a pillow when you sit or lie down. After surgery you will have physical therapy. Recovery after surgery may take several months.
How can I take care of myself?
To reduce swelling and pain for the first few days after the injury:
Put an ice pack, gel pack, or package of frozen vegetables wrapped in a cloth, on the area every 3 to 4 hours for up to 20 minutes at a time.
Take nonprescription pain medicine, such as acetaminophen, ibuprofen, or naproxen. Read the label and take as directed. Unless recommended by your healthcare provider, you should not take these medicines for more than 10 days.
Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory medicines (NSAIDs), such as ibuprofen, naproxen, and aspirin, may cause stomach bleeding and other problems. These risks increase with age.
Acetaminophen may cause liver damage or other problems. Unless recommended by your provider, don’t take more than 3000 milligrams (mg) in 24 hours. To make sure you donâ€™t take too much, check other medicines you take to see if they also contain acetaminophen. Ask your provider if you need to avoid drinking alcohol while taking this medicine.
Follow your healthcare provider’s instructions, including any exercises recommended by your provider. Ask your provider:
How and when you will hear your test results
How long it will take to recover
If there are activities you should avoid, including how much you can lift, and when you can return to your normal activities
How to take care of yourself at home
What symptoms or problems you should watch for and what to do if you have them
Make sure you know when you should come back for a checkup. Keep all appointments for provider visits or tests.
How can I help prevent jersey finger?
Warm-up exercises and stretching before activities can help prevent injuries. Follow safety rules and use any protective equipment recommended for your work or sport. For example, proper form in tackling; exercises to strengthen your hands; and taping, splinting, or protective strapping before a game can help prevent jersey finger.
Developed by RelayHealth.
Adult Advisor 2015.1 published by RelayHealth. Last modified: 2014-10-21 Last reviewed: 2014-10-13
This content is reviewed periodically and is subject to change as new health information becomes available. The information is intended to inform and educate and is not a replacement for medical evaluation, advice, diagnosis or treatment by a healthcare professional.
Jersey Finger (Torn Flexor Tendon of the Hand): References
Busconi, B. D., and Stevenson, J. H., Sports Medicine Consult, Lippincott 2009.
Brotzman SB, and RC Manske. Clinical Orthopaedic Rehabilitation, An Evidence-Based Approach, Third Edition. Elsevier, 2011.