Saturday afternoon, sports are done for the day, but there are complaints of a sore and swollen finger….could it be a volar plate injury?
The volar plate is a thick fibrous band located on the underside of the joints of your fingers. These tissues are very important and provide stability and support to the finger joints when moving and gripping.
Injury to the volar plate is very common and often occurs when a forceful load has pushed the top of the finger backwards (also known as a hyperextension injury). We often see these injuries in ball sports such as netball or basketball, however they can also be the result of a fall. These injuries may be associated with a dislocation but do not always have to be.
The injury can involve a fragment of bone coming away with the volar plate or may just involve the soft tissue. An X-ray may be necessary to determine if there is a fracture associated with the injury or not. Your therapist will be able to discuss the results of your images with you, or suggest you get some if they feel it would be beneficial.
These injuries are often very painful and result in immediate swelling and reduced range of motion of the affected digit. Despite how common a volar plate injury is, our therapists often do not see these types of injuries for a couple of weeks after they occur. It is often shrugged off as ‘just a jarred finger’ and it is not until there is persistent pain and stiffness that people seek help.
The earlier our therapists see this type of injury the better! It means they can fabricate a splint/orthosis for you to provide protection for the healing volar plate. It allows early intervention to assist with reducing swelling and restoring range of motion in a protected way. Your therapist will provide you with tailored flexion/bending exercises, and when appropriate straightening/extension exercises. They will help you achieve your optimal outcome.
(Photo Copyright Canberra Hand Therapy Pty Ltd)
The type of splints or supports that may be provided to you include a custom-made thermoplastic splint along the back of your finger, to prevent too much extension of the injured volar plate. Within this splint your therapist will advise you to perform regular exercises and massage to ensure that the finger does not remain stiff. If appropriate your therapist may also provide you with a neoprene sleeve and or buddy straps and they will also be able to discuss and plan with you a graded return to activities and sport.
If this is sounding familiar, and you or someone you know may have sustained a volar plate injury and you would like to have it looked at, please give us a call or email to make an appointment.