Ouch! Even the mere thought of having a broken finger can be agonizing, let alone having to go through the trauma of it all. When it comes to bone fractures in the body, broken fingers are most common.
The human fingers are made up of 14 bones called the phalanges. Each finger has three of these, while the thumb has just two.
A broken finger is usually caused by weakened bones or severe injury. The latter is the most common cause of a broken finger in soccer.
As a contact sport with intense players, there have been many situations that left players with a broken finger on the pitch.
A good example is the dislocated finger of Sandro Wagner. During a Bundesliga game between Hoffenheim and Hertha Berlin, former German professional striker, Sandro Wagner, collided with Vedad Ibisevic and was left with a broken finger.
With assistance from one of the club’s trainers, his dislocated finger was popped back into place and held together with a tape. He would go on to continue the match that would see his team secure the victory.
If you have watched or played soccer long enough, you would have encountered situations of a broken finger. Understanding how to treat and protect the finger becomes crucial.
The article highlights ways and steps to treat and protect a broken finger in soccer.
- How to protect a broken finger in soccer?
- Steps to protect a broken finger in soccer
How to protect a broken finger in soccer?
As a professional player, part of the thrill and entertainment of soccer is dealing with pains and injuries. No matter how careful you choose to play, you cannot control the opponent’s style of play. Picture yourself playing against a team with a player like Sergio Ramos as part of its defenders.
Even without having physical contact with other players, soccer players can still have bone fractures. For instance, outfield players can land awkwardly on their fingers after a jump and break/dislocate them.
Obviously, you wouldn’t get a fracture from kicking the ball around. Still, a player’s position can put them more at risk of fractures than others.
For instance, since most outfield players rely more on playing with their feet, fractures tend to occur more on the feet for them than a goalkeeper. Although glove manufacturers are developing glove designs to reduce the risks, goalies may be more at risk of finger-related injuries than outfield players because they use their hands.
Since outfield players do not necessarily rely on the use of hands to play, they are more likely to continue play after it has been looked at by a professional than for goalkeepers. It is part of the reason you see goalkeepers tape their fingers as part of a preventive method.
A goalkeeper with a broken finger would most likely be substituted and allowed to rest for weeks to avoid causing more damage to the finger.
To protect a broken finger in soccer, players can use any of these two major methods; athletic tapes/bandages and a finger cast.
Soccer players often use athletic tapes on their hands and heels. Sometimes it is used to hold equipment together, while it functions as a splint at other times.
As a preventive method, soccer players roll tapes on the finger joints to prevent dislocation. In a situation of a broken finger, compression bandages or athletic tapes are used to help support the broken bone.
Soccer governing bodies recognize athletic tapes and bandages as an accessory. However, they are subject to inspection by the officiating match referee to ensure they do not cause harm or pose a threat to other players on the pitch.
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Just like hand casts, finger cast help to protect broken bones in the body. Although less seen and used in soccer, it is ideal for protecting and holding fingers with severe fractures.
The structure and design of the finger cast protest the broken finger by ensuring immobilization. This will help the fracture to heal faster.
However, you have to get approval from your football association, alongside your doctor, to know if you can use it to play. To avoid causing injuries to other players, it must not have sharp edges or be too bulky on the hand.
A notable example of a professional player using a cast was Gareth Bale, who once had to wear a cast to protect his sprained finger. He suffered the finger sprain in one of Real Madrid’s clashes with Osasuna in 2020. Interestingly, it didn’t stop him from training and playing subsequent games and the finger healed in a couple of weeks.
Irrespective of the chosen protection technique, getting help for a broken finger as quickly as possible remains the best option for healing.
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Steps to protect a broken finger in soccer
The steps in protecting a broken finger in soccer are not cast in stone. Still, they give an overview guideline on preventing the injury from festering. As a soccer player, here are the steps to successfully protect a broken finger.
Step 1: Examine the extent of the injury
There is no gainsaying that the pain from a broken finger can be excruciating. It can cause a grown man to writhe in pain and cry like a baby!
However, in the midst of all of that pain, it’s important you have a complete assessment of the injury. A dislocation is a more easy fix than having a broken finger with shattered bone fragments.
Usually, the first sign of a broken finger will be the pop sound it makes. With all the noise in the stadium, it may be hard to hear this. The pain is usually the first symptom you’ll feel.
The finger may be possibly proportionately out of shape, but observe if the bone pierces through the skin or if there’s any bleeding. The idea here is to determine the severity of the injury.
Other symptoms you may want to look out for include:
Inability to move/bend the finger
Since all fingers can naturally be bent along the joints, the inability to do this means a dislocation or fracture has occurred.
Swelling around the finger
Swelling may not immediately occur, but it is a common sight when badly fractured. What causes the swelling? It’s usually an accumulation of blood and body fluids leaking into the muscles around the fractured bone.
Over time, this clot may harden if not naturally drained or removed.
Areas of the body without bones feel softer to the touch. Therefore, with a bone fracture and resulting swelling, the area around the fracture feels tender to the touch. However, do not exacerbate the injury by continuously touching to ascertain tenderness.
Step 2: Call for assistance
If, for some reason, other players, officials, and coaching staff are unaware of your broken finger, quickly signal the closest person to draw attention for help. Handling a broken finger may not be rocket science, but it’s best you leave it up to the professionals to handle.
A broken finger is not just about the bones but may affect the surrounding tendons/ligaments and muscles. If you’re not well-versed in the science, it would mean your initial examination of the injury was only to ascertain its physical severity.
Step 3: Do not move the finger
As you await an expert or professional assistance, ensure you make no further unnecessary movement of the broken finger. Irrespective of its current assumed position, try to keep it fixed to avoid causing further damage or unnecessary pain.
If walking causes movement of the broken finger and more pain, sit or lie down on the pitch and wait for assistance.
Step 4: Initiate treatment
Treatment is dependent on the nature of the fracture. To avoid using medical terminologies, let’s group finger fracture in relation to the broken finger position into two main types; stable and unstable fractures.
A stable broken finger fracture occurs when dislocation happens around the joints on the phalanges. It usually doesn’t have loose bone fragments.
To help act as a support, athletic tapes/compression bandages or finger cast are used to hold the adjacent finger together with the broken finger. In addition, the tape acts as a splint to hold the fingers upright.
A good preventive method soccer players use to avoid this type of finger fracture is to tape the fingers. As long as it is done effectively, it helps prevent breaks and dislocations around the joints in the fingers.
Sometimes players tape more than one finger together to increase the thickness and strength of the joints. Just ensure it is not too tight and reduce proper blood circulation on the finger.
This occurs on or around the joints of the phalanges and can leave broken bone fragments. This fracture can break through the skin and cause external bleeding, leaving an open wound.
The first thing to do is align the broken fragments before attempting to hold the broken finger in place. This may not be possible on the field of play, so in such a severe finger fracture, the player may be substituted to allow the medics to work on the finger.
Splints like finger casts are also used in unstable fractures, but usually, after aligning the fragments. This is a very painful exercise and may require local anesthesia.
Upon examination with an X-ray, an orthopedic surgeon may need to perform surgery to help align bones that are significantly out of place.
Step 5: Recovery
For a passionate soccer player, this is primarily the concern. The recovery phase is also dependent on the extent of damage done to the finger.
With our earlier example, there are several instances where players had to continue with gameplay after breaking a finger. From what is known now, they probably had a stable fracture.
Stable fractures heal a lot quicker than unstable fractures. You’ll probably need to use a splint for about 2-3 weeks to help keep the finger upright during healing. Still, it may not necessarily prevent you from playing soccer.
This only applies to outfield players who can do their best to avoid any deliberate contact on their fingers. You can opt for compression bandages to make other players aware of your injury.
As long as you avoid further trauma to the finger, it should fully recover within 4-5 weeks.
With unstable fractures, you may not be allowed to play. You’ll probably be medically advised to allow the finger to heal.
This may put you out of play for a couple of weeks, but the more focused you are on allowing your fingers to heal naturally, the quicker you’ll return to the pitch.
You’ll be given medications to help with the pain in the first few days or weeks after the fracture. Ensure whatever pain medication you’re taking is prescribed by your doctor.
Towards the end of the recovery phase, your physiotherapist may advise hand and finger exercises to help loosen the joints and ligaments to avoid stiffness.
It’s imperative that you take the rest and recovery period seriously. Unfortunately, not all soccer players have been known to adhere to such advice.
For example, Karim Benzema wore a finger cast for more than two years because he refused to listen to medical advice to allow his finger to heal with proper rest. The French international sustained the finger injury in a 2019 La Liga match clash against Real Betis.
A broken finger can cause a lot of discomfort to a soccer player. As one of the most common bone-related injuries in soccer, it can occur from tugging hard on a Jersey to inappropriately catching a high-velocity shot.
Whatever the cause, protecting the broken finger is paramount to its healing. A dislocation can easily be fixed by pushing the phalanges back into place and then using a splint to hold the joint in place.
Severe unstable fractures will require some form of surgery to align broken bone fragments. Compression bandages or splints will be used to hold them in place.
While not all broken finger injuries will stop a player from playing soccer, care must be taken to avoid further trauma to the injury.
Hi there, I’m Jay.
Soccer is everything in my life! My friends and I have created this blog with all our enthusiasm, passion, and understanding after years of playing pro soccer. Hope you will enjoy it!