Finger Flexor Tendon Injury

(Jersey Finger)
  • Definition

    Tendons connect muscles to bone. The fingers have tendons that run all the way up to the finger tips. The tendons on the palm side let you curl your fingers. A flexor tendon injury is damage to these tendons. When the tendons are damaged, you can lose your ability to bend your finger(s).
    Healthy Flexor Tendons of the Hand
    flexor tendon
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  • Causes

    Flexor tendon injures most commonly occur as a cut or laceration to the hand. Other causes include:
    • Damage to the tendon from:
      • A cut to fingers—palm side
      • A sports injury:
        • Stretching of tendon
        • Jersey finger—when finger catches on another player’s jersey or clothing
      • Rheumatoid arthritis
  • Risk Factors

    Factors that may increase your chance of a flexor tendon injury include:
    • Participating in certain sports, such as:
      • Rugby
      • Football
      • Wrestling
    • Rheumatoid arthritis
  • Symptoms

    Symptoms may include:
    • Pain
    • Swelling
    • Tenderness
    • Inability to bend finger
    • Cut to hand or fingers
    • Loss of sensation
  • Diagnosis

    Your doctor will ask about your symptoms and medical history. A physical exam will be done. During the exam, you will be asked to bend and straighten your fingers. Your doctor will also check your fingers for sensation, blood flow, and strength. You may be referred to a hand surgeon or an orthopedist—a doctor who specializes in bones.
  • Treatment

    Talk with your doctor about the best plan for you. Most patients with this type of injury require surgery. Surgery may be scheduled right away or within several days. Treatment options include the following:
    Medications
    Depending on the type of injury, you may receive antibiotics to prevent infection.
    Surgery
    Tendons that are cut or ruptured require surgery. The hand surgeon may sew the tendon back together. It may be necessary to sew the tendon back to the muscle.
    Rehabilitation
    After surgery, you will be given a splint to protect your hand. Your doctor will tell you how long to wear it. It may be up to two months. A physical therapist or occupational therapist will work with you to regain your finger strength and range of motion.
  • Prevention

    Flexor tendon injuries are typically caused by accidental injuries. There are no known prevention guidelines for this injury.
  • RESOURCES

    American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons http://orthoinfo.aaos.org

    American Society for Surgery of the Hand http://www.assh.org

    CANADIAN RESOURCES

    The Canadian Orthopaedic Association http://www.coa-aco.org

    Canadian Orthopaedic Foundation http://www.canorth.org

    References

    Flexor tendon injuries. American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons website. Available at: http://orthoinfo.aaos.org/topic.cfm?topic=A00015. Updated January 2011. Accessed August 21, 2013.

    Flexor tendon injuries. American Society for Surgery of the Hand website. Available at: http://www.assh.org/Public/HandConditions/Pages/FlexorTendonInjuries.aspx. Published 2009. Accessed August 21, 2013.

    Ruchelsman DE, Christoforou D, et al. Avulsion injuries of the flexor digitorum profundus tendon. J Am Acad Orthop Surg. 2011;19(3):152-162.

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