Injuries to the hand and fingers are common in sports and must be taken seriously. If not treated properly, they can be very debilitating and have long-term consequences. Here we explain sudden onset (acute) injuries as well as chronic (overuse) hand and finger injuries.
Sudden onset sprains, strains & fractures
Sudden onset injuries are known as acute injuries and are usually caused by direct trauma. They include ligament sprains, tendon strains and fractures. Acute injuries can become chronic if they are not treated properly.
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, and handball. A sprain can be helped by rest, ice and compression and also a taping method, details of which can be seen below.
Thumb sprain – occurs when the thumb is bent out of its normal range of movement, usually backward. It can happen in sports like skiing, rugby, and basketball and causes pain and swelling. The ligaments supporting the joint at the bottom of the thumb get damaged, and this can be helped by taping, icing, and compression.
Broken finger – is a break or fracture in any one of the 3 small phalange bones which make up each finger. Finger fractures are usually caused by some kind of impact or collision. You will feel immediate pain with swelling and bruising, which will appear quite quickly. It will be painful to try and move your finger, which may appear deformed. If there is any nerve damage, the finger may be numb or feel tingly.
Jersey finger – is a tear of one of the flexor tendons in a finger. Symptoms include pain in the fingertips with inability to bend your finger normally. Tenderness on the pad of the finger will be present along with swelling and bruising, which may develop later.
Volar plate injury – the volar plate is a very thick ligament which joins two bones in the finger. A volar plate injury occurs when the finger is bent too far back the wrong way, spraining or tearing the ligament. In some cases, this can also involve a fracture.
Bruised hand – also known as a hand contusion, occurs due to a direct trauma of the hand. Impacts and crush injuries are the most common causes. This hand injury usually results in bleeding and subsequent bruising and will be painful to touch. Rest and ice are two of the main ways to help this injury.
Gradual onset & chronic hand and finger injuries
Chronic injuries develop over time, usually through overuse. A chronic hand or finger injury can flare up like an acute injury if it is not rested and treated correctly.
Trigger Finger (and thumb) – is a form of tenosynovitis which results in the finger becoming bent in towards the palm of the hand. This can also occur in the thumb known as trigger thumb. There is no specific cause but a variety of factors are detailed below which can make the condition more likely, including gaming and texting! The treatment depends on the severity of the condition and can range from resting to surgery.
Black fingernail – is known as a subungual hematoma. It is caused by a build-up of blood under the nail, usually as a result of an impact or trauma to the finger.
Bowler’s thumb – is an overuse injury resulting from compression, or repeated friction on the inside of the thumb. This causes pressure on the Ulnar nerve, resulting in symptoms of numbness and tingling at the end of the thumb.
Mallet finger – you will be unable to extend or straighten the end joint of a finger without assistance. It can vary from a mild stretching of the tendon, to the tendon being pulled away from the bone.
Boutonniere deformity – or ‘buttonhole’ deformity is an injury to a tendon in one of the fingers which causes the finger to appear deformed. This usually occurs after an impact to a bent finger. Symptoms include pain at the time of injury with tenderness on top of the middle finger bone which is likely to be swollen.
Cellulitis (finger felon) – is a bacterial infection of the superficial and deep layers of the skin. In the fingertip, this is known as a felon. It is often caused by a small injury to the end of the finger which can make it painful and swell up. Symptoms include a throbbing pain at the end of the finger.
Handlebar palsy – is a name given to a common condition suffered by cyclists. Symptoms include numbness, tingling, and weakness over the outside of the hand. It is caused by compression of the ulnar nerve at the wrist.
Dupuytren’s contracture – is a condition which affects the hand and fingers, causing the fingers to bend in towards the palm of the hand. Tissue in the hand contracts and becomes shorter, although this does not normally cause pain. Many cases do not require treatment, although if the condition is severe, there are options you can take.