Advice from a Certified Hand Therapist: Football Hand Injuries

Advice from a Certified Hand Therapist: Football Hand Injuries

Football season is finally here! My friends and I like to go play a few flag football games during this time of year. I really don’t see too many football hand injuries putting NFL players on the disabled list (DL). Should I be concerned about hand injuries?

Numerous studies find a large percentage of emergency room visits are for hand injuries from recreational sports. Nearly half of these are from either football or basketball. Unfortunately, NFL players tend to play through their finger injuries. Take a look at Michael Strahan talking about his finger injuries. (How about the most twisted hand injuries in NFL history?)

What kind of hand injuries should I worry about?

As you can see from the video and photos of the NFL players, hand injuries from football typically involve tendons, ligaments and/or bones. Injuries to the tendons that straighten the finger are called mallet finger and central slip injuries. A jersey finger is an injury to the tendon that bends the finger.

The thumb and the middle joints of the fingers (jammed finger) are prone to ligament injuries. Hand injuries can progress to deformities if left untreated. An example of this is a boutonniere deformity.

Jeez! I don’t want a hand deformity! What can I do to prevent this?

When playing flag football, have a “no pocket” rule. This is simply not allowing players to wear clothing with pockets. Also, make sure flags break away easily. Don’t allow players to tie their flags in place. Don’t get a boxer’s fracture (a broken bone on the small finger side of the hand from punching a hard surface, usually out of anger)!

If you are injured, get treatment for your hand injury. Go see a hand surgeon and make sure to see a certified hand therapist ( for your rehabilitation.

Most important tip of all — get out there and have FUN!

Stacy Hite, PT, DPT, MS, CHT is a certified hand therapist and a member of the American Society of Hand Therapists (ASHT).

Kaplan Y. Myklebust G. et al. The prevention of injuries in contact flag football. Knee Surgery, Sports Traumatology, Arthroscopy. 2014;22(1):26-32.

Mall NA, Carlisle JC, et al. Upper extremity injuries in the National Football League: Part I: Hand and digital injuries. Am. J. Sports Med. 2008;36(10):1938-1944.