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When is the right time to return to sport following a finger dislocation?

Hand injuries during your netball or football season can be frustrating, especially when you are forced to miss out on some of the competition. We know you want to return back to play as soon as possible, but if you dislocate your finger playing sport, how do know when it is safe to return to play?

A finger dislocation occurs when an external force, often a ball or opposition player, forces the finger to go beyond its normal limits. The joint dislocates when the joint surfaces are no longer in contact with each other. This causes internal structures to be stretched, torn or even break. The structures within a finger joint that may be damaged during a dislocation includes the collateral ligaments (either side of the joint that provide side to side stability), the volar plate (a thick ligament that aims to prevent hyperextension), the central slip (the attachment point of the muscle that straighten our finger), the joint capsule and the surrounding bones.

Following a finger dislocation, the joint can often be unstable and at risk of dislocating again. The finger may also be painful, swollen and stiff. If you return to sport before the structures within your finger joint have healed, then you are putting yourself at risk of recurrent finger dislocations when you return to sport.

If you don’t have appropriate treatment of your finger dislocation, or return to sport too soon following a dislocation, you put yourself at risk of:

· An unstable joint which is prone to further dislocations

· Chronic pain

· Loss of movement due to swelling and internal scar tissue

· Finger deformities such as a ‘Swan Neck’ deformity.

Hand therapy can help to ensure all structures heal in a timely manner and in their correct position and length. Treatment may include splinting, swelling management, range of motion, stretching and strengthening exercises. You may be ready to return to sport when you have

· Pain free at rest and with movement

· Full finger movement

· No remaining swelling in the joint

· No instability if the finger is passively pushed to its end of range position.

When your finger is ready, your Hand Therapist can help guide your appropriately back to sport.

If you need further advice, please feel free to contact us on 02 6925 0157 or

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