Volar plate injury

Back to Patient education: hand & wrist

What is a volar plate injury?

A volar plate injury is damage to the volar plate, the thick ligament that joins two bones in the finger. The volar plate prevents the finger from bending backwards and helps stabilize the proximal interphalangeal (PIP) joint, the middle joint of the finger. Most people consider this type of injury a “jammed” finger. Mild volar injuries stretch or partially tear the ligament. More severe injuries may cause the ligament to rupture or tear away from the bone, a condition known as an avulsion fracture.

What causes a volar plate injury?

Volar plate injuries commonly result from sports-related accidents or falls in which the finger is hit straight on or bent backwards. Trauma, such as a car accident, can cause the ligament to tear or rupture.

What are the symptoms?

Symptoms typically include pain, swelling and bruising around the PIP joint. Severe injury may cause joint instability or dislocation.

How is a volar plate injury diagnosed?

In addition to a complete medical history and physical exam, your doctor may order an X-ray to confirm the diagnosis and rule out other conditions, such as a fracture.

What is the treatment?

Most volar plate injuries respond well to non-surgical treatment. This includes rest, short periods of splinting and hand therapy. If the damage is severe, the joint is unstable or a fracture is present, surgery may be necessary. This may involve repairing damaged collateral ligaments, releasing the scarred tendons and joint capsule, or even removing the volar plate if it becomes trapped in the joint.

Following surgery, patients spend several weeks in a cast or splint. Rehabilitation with a Certified Hand Therapist is recommended to strengthen and stabilize the muscles around the wrist joint, and improve hand dexterity. Full recovery could take several months, depending on the severity of your injury and your overall health.