A sprained finger occurs when the finger is bent in some way causing damage to the ligaments which connect bones together. It is a common injury in ball games such as American football, basketball, cricket, handball etc.
Symptoms of a sprained finger
Finger sprain symptoms include pain in the finger at the time of injury. Swelling is likely to develop over the joint and there will be restricted movement in the finger. Later on there is likely to be more specific pain when bending the finger to stretch the injured ligament. Instability in the finger if the injury is severe or a complete rupture of the ligament has occurred.
Sprained finger ligaments
The finger has a number of ligaments with connect the finger bones or phalanges. The ligaments at the side of the phalanges joints are called the collateral ligaments. These are injured by a sideways type force bending the finger laterally or sideways. The thick volar plate is a kind of ligament which sits underneath the middle finger joint. This can also be injured through hyperextension or over straightening / bending back of the finger joint.
Rest the finger and apply ice. Ice or cold therapy can be applied for 10 minutes every hour initially reducing frequency as symptoms ease. Do not apply ice directly to the skin as it may apply ice burns unless it is in the form of ice massage. Keeping an ice cube moving over the area should avoid ice burns.
During the acute phase which is usually the first 24 to 48 hours elastic bandage or small finger sized compression bandages can be used to help reduce swelling. Once the swelling has died down the finger should be taped to protect the injured ligament while it heals. The taping will be specific to the ligament injured. When returning to sport it may be necessary to use a finger buddy taping where the injured finger is taped to the adjacent one for protection.
A surgeon may operate if required for more severe cases or a complete rupture.
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