A “jersey finger” gets its name from, you guessed it, a sports jersey! Jersey fingers are a casual name for the disruption of a tendon in the finger, often times caused by gripping someone’s jersey with a clenched hand during a game while that person runs in the opposite direction. The force can cause your fingertip to abruptly extend, resulting in your tendon being pulled and sometimes even a chipped bone. This typically happens with the ring finger, but it can technically happen with any finger.
You may have a jersey finger if you’re unable to bend your fingertip, or if you have swelling and pain. During the injury, you may have heard a popping noise. Your treatment will depend on if you have a type I, II or III jersey finger, with type I being the most severe. This means you have total retraction of the tendon into the palm. A type III jersey finger means you had little or no retraction of the tendon.
Regardless of which type of jersey finger you may have, visit a hand surgeon as soon as possible. Most jersey fingers require surgery to fix, and it’s important to schedule your surgery sooner rather than later. Some surgical techniques that may be used to treat your jersey finger include:
Your overall treatment plan should be discussed with your hand surgeon. It will depend on how severe your injury is, how long ago it took place, and other factors. Delaying treatment of your jersey finger can lead to a more difficult recovery and/or the need for a more complex procedure. Avoiding surgery altogether can result in the permanent inability to bend your fingertip.
After surgery, you’ll likely be put in a splint and may be expected to complete some at-home exercises to help with recovery. This may include working with a hand therapist. Hand therapists specialize in helping patients regain function in their hands.
Learn more about jersey fingers on HandCare.org from the American Society for Surgery of the Hand.