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I’ve dislocated my finger, what now, and when can I play again?

Following up from my recent blog “Its not just a ‘jarred’ finger”, I wanted to discuss when it is appropriate to get back into sports, especially ball sports after a finger dislocation. Getting back as quickly as possible is always the aim, but when is it appropriate to return?

A dislocation is when the joint surfaces are no longer in contact with each other. The force required to dislocate a joint usually results in damage to 3 of the 4 restraining forces at the joint in the finger. Often this occurs when the finger comes into contact with an opposition player, a ball or the ground taking the finger beyond the tissues limits causing them to tear or break. 

The collateral ligaments (on the inside and outside of the joint) as well as the volar plate (a ligament on the palm side of the joint) or the central slip (part of the tendon that helps to straighten our finger) are damaged in a finger dislocation as well as the potential for joint capsule and bony injuries including fractures. 

Injuries to these structures can cause the joint to be unstable and at high risk of a subsequent dislocation. The finger is usually painful, stiff and swollen. 

Ineffective/inappropriate management of a finger dislocation can result in: 
  • Ongoing instability resulting in ongoing and recurrent finger dislocations 
  • Long term swelling and persistent pain
  • Loss of finger function secondary to deformities, for example a “Swan Neck” deformity
  • Stiffness and loss of range of motion secondary to adhesions and scar tissue. 

Appropriate management with a hand therapist of a finger dislocation allows for adequate tissue healing to regain appropriate tissue health and position. Management will generally include a period of splinting, swelling management, exercises to maintain appropriate range of motion and a progressive strengthening and stretching program when appropriate. 

For the best outcome of joint stability and reduced risk of ongoing secondary complications your hand therapist will generally look for you to achieve the following outcomes:
  • Pain-free palpation of the joint 
  • Full pain free range of motion 
  • Nil ongoing swelling 
  • Nil ongoing instability at the joint in all directions 
  • Strength within 90% of the opposite hand 

During your rehabilitation your hand therapist will guide you through appropriate drills and training sessions to ensure you are appropriately conditioned to play and game like conditions. Training and games will likely be completed with taping or splinting for the first 6-12 months after injury to further reduce your risk of recurrent dislocation. 

If you have recently suffered from a finger dislocation or other injury, it is critical that you see a therapist to assess and treat your condition. Book with Tim by clicking the button below!

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