Houston Methodist. Leading Medicine

Hand FAQ

Question:

My father suffered a ring-finger injury that he proudly tells us is a "jersey finger." Even though he hasn't played sports a day in his life, he's sure that's what it is. How does somebody who is 71-years-old and very sedentary get a jersey finger anyway? He refuses to let on how it really happened.

Answer:

Jersey finger injury refers to the damage done to the tip of the ring finger when an athlete grabs the shirt (jersey) of another player while that player is pulling away. The hand grasping the jersey is closed in a fist. But the force of the player wearing the shirt pulls the tip of the ring finger into extension. The result is a rupture of the tendon away from the bone. A piece of the bone may come with the tendon (still attached). This is called an avulsion injury. There can be a bone fracture along with the tendon rupture. And although it sounds like this is an injury only an athlete can have, in fact, "jersey" finger injuries occur in nonathletes of all ages. Older adults with rheumatoid arthritis or other inflammatory joint conditions experience this injury as well. The same mechanism takes place: forceful extension of the tip of the finger when it is bent that causes the problem. Any finger can be affected. The ring finger seems to be the most commonly injured digit because of its unique anatomy. It is the weakest of the fingers and least able to move by itself. The flexor digitorum profundus (or FDP) tendon pulls away from the bone more easily than any other finger tendon. When the fingers are in a fisted position, the ring finger is actually just a tiny bit more forward than the other fingers. So it absorbs more of the force during a pull-away maneuver compared with the other fingers. Your father could have been doing something as simple as picking up a heavy bag of groceries with his fingertips or opening a car door while losing his balance backwards. There are any number of ways an older adult can manage to get a "jersey finger" injury without coming in contact with someone else's shirt. But it makes an exciting story and gains him a little extra attention, so smile and enjoy the moment. David E. Ruchelsman, MD, et al. Avulsion Injuries of the Flexor Digitorum Profundus Tendon. In Journal of the American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons. March 2011. Vol. 19. No. 3. Pp. 152-162.

*Disclaimer:* The information contained herein is compiled from a variety of sources. It may not be complete or timely. It does not cover all diseases, physical conditions, ailments or treatments. The information should NOT be used in place of visit with your healthcare provider, nor should you disregard the advice of your health care provider because of any information you read in this topic.
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