The most common injuries in youth basketball are broken fingers. Small, growing hands often have a hard time with coordination and strength as the ball is being moved around the gym faster each year. Fingers can be jammed or broken by a pass, a dribble or on a fall or during a jump ball or reach for the ball in traffic.
Here is a summary of most broken finger cases and our consistent policy on attendance with regard to this common injury.
Injury: Minor break of finger to break in growth plate (slightly more serious). Fingers that are deformed and require surgery are handled differently. Email the office if the finger/hand needs surgery.
Recovery Time: Usually 2-3 weeks. More conservative doctors may say 4-6 weeks. Several players have returned with taped fingers after 2 weeks even if the doctor said to possibly wait a 3rd week.
Mo’ Motion Policy on Finger Injuries: An absence is an absence, especially in this case. Fingers are not weight bearing. Players have legs. Players need to stay in shape or else there is risk of coming back and hurting another area of the body that has not been kept in shape. Coaches are happy to give injured players credit for attending even if they cannot do all drills (no contact). This keeps the player feeling like a good teammate and sets a great example for his or her peers.
Best Advice on Jammed or Broken Fingers: Ice with a solid ice pack or put hand in ice/water after the injury for 48 hours. The finger will heal much faster if the swelling is eliminated. This will require icing several times a day for the first two days. An effective method for removing the swelling after 48 hours is a hot-cold combo where the hand is placed under or in hot water for five minutes, then in ice or cold water for five minutes (2 times each). Follow all rest instructions or PT exercises prescribed by doctor or therapist.
All parents have to do is email the coach and say, “Right pinky finger, doc says 2-3 weeks, please no contact and keep eye on my kid, but note that I am taking full responsibility for a) making sure my child is wearing the proper tape or splint and b) understands that he/she cannot do all drills until doctor says the injury has healed.”
For those who think this is cruel and unfair and totally against everything their medical expert is saying, read on:
Note #1: Players can play with broken fingers without knowing they are broken. Some fingers are just jammed and players play with them. The player or coach may not know it’s broken by its appearance. Just because it’s purple does not guarantee it’s broken and it often takes some time for it to change color. Coaches are told to not let players back into contact drills and to sit them down/out if their finger is deformed or pointing in the wrong direction or clearly broken. Please do not blame the coaches for not knowing that your child’s finger was broken.
Note #2: Players can play with broken fingers that are taped even if the doctor says NO. This is usually not true with a broken foot (weight-bearing), but again, it’s possible and often tough to determine if the area is sprained, jammed or broken during the heat of competition. We do not encourage kids to play with broken bones, but again, there are several examples of kids who finished games or practices with minor broken fingers. Please forgive the coach if he or she did not have an X-ray machine handy to take a photo of your child while coaching.
We do, however, expect that if the child is feeling better (usually after a few days), AND if the injury is protected by a splint and/or tape or brace, the player can participate in all running and shooting (non-injured hand drills) and also walk through all plays. It will be difficult to catch the ball (so their partner adjusts), but the player can still make gains in conditioning, shooting (controlled) and even with ball-handling on the non-injured hand.
Note #3: Players are strongly encouraged to tape the finger for a few weeks after being allowed to return to contact. Sometimes kids forget the tape. Coaches aren’t trainers, but of course, if coaches remember the injury and there is tape in the first aid kit (not always the case), the coach is happy to tape the player’s finger(s). Players must bring their own tape and tape their finger up before they get sweaty. Players are told that it’s best to tape the formerly broken finger to the finger next to it for support.
Injury Prevention – Post-Injury
Jammed and broken fingers will decrease significantly if the player does any and all of the following:
– regular year-round ball-handling drills
– finger-tip push-ups with knees down so the joints are strengthened and not overloaded/locked
– wrist flips and stretching of the fascia in the palm and on top of the hand
Remember – if the finger is badly broken, disfigured and needs surgery, our coaches know not to touch the finger and to contact parents or contact the office to follow-up with parents.
If it’s a minor break and dealt with in a reasonable manner, the child returns to the season without feeling like he or she missed much. The coaches teach the kids how to make the most of less-than-perfect situations. Players can participate in many important drills where they can work around this injury. Parent cooperation is appreciated.