Youth: Goalkeeper Finger Injuries: What Are They and How to Avoid Them

Sep 23, 2019


 

***This article is part of an educational series for soccer parents and youth players new to soccer***

 

  • Goalkeepers can suffer a wide spectrum of hand and finger injuries, ranging from tendon damage to full-out fractures. 

 

  • Proper conditioning, strength training and correct ball-handling technique can significantly reduce the risk of hand injuries. 

 

  • Wrist-taping and goalie gloves with finger protection add an extra layer of shielding against injuries. 

 

For a goalkeeper, the opportunity to win lies literally in their hands. But constantly swatting and deflecting the ball exposes goalkeepers to hand injuries that can put those hands out of action. 

That’s why goalies need to do their utmost to protect them from injury. This post will highlight some common hand injuries goalkeepers may face, and how they can reduce their risk of getting these injuries. 

Goalkeeper Injuries: A Closer Look

A hand injury for a goalkeeper can occur at various locations - the hands, after all, are composed of many bones along with ligaments, tendons and muscles. With that said, the majority of these injuries take place in the fingers and wrists. 

The manner in which hand injuries occur depends on how the keeper handles the ball. So it's common for young and inexperienced players to get hurt more often since they haven’t mastered their handling technique yet (more on this later). 

Keep in mind, too, that goalkeepers are routinely exposed to many other situations that can lead to injury. That includes diving for a ball, which could mean slamming their fingers into the goal post or landing awkwardly on the hands. It could also mean an opponent accidentally stepping on their hand while the keeper rushes to smother the ball. 

  • Bruises 
  • Ligament injuries 
  • Tendonitis  injuries 
  • Joint injuries (sprains) 
  • Pulled muscles (strains)
  • Broken bones/fractures 
  • Discolations 
  • Hyperextended finger  

Additionally, common symptoms include: 

  • Pain and tenderness
  • Localized warmth
  • Discolouration (due to internal bleeding)
  • Swelling 
  • Redness
  • Stiffness 
  • Decreased range of motion (ROM)
  • Locked joints/digits (can’t move finger)
  • Deformity and displacement (seen in broken/fractured bones)

The pain level of these injuries can range from minor aches to nagging, throbbing messes that sideline even the toughest goalkeepers. More concerningly, hand injuries that aren’t properly addressed and treated will worsen, leading to the risk of re-injury, persistent pain and in rare cases, deformity. As the cliche goes, prevention is better than cure so we’re here to dish out some tips on how to avoid them. 

Condition the Hands, Digits and Arms

An often overlooked aspect of injury prevention in soccer is conditioning. The stronger a muscle, bone, ligament or tendon is, the more load and stress it can withstand, meaning that it’s better protected against injuries. The hands are no different. Regular conditioning and strengthening of the hands protects goalkeepers from injuries that keep them on the bench. 

  • High planks on fingertips and toes- Planks obviously build outstanding core strength and muscular endurance. But as you’re resting your weight on your fingertips and toes (pictured below), you’re also building strength and endurance in your fingers, much like calisthenics do for other muscles and joints. This will make your digits more resilient to injury. 

 

 

 

  • Grip-based exercises - Exercises such as deadlifts, chin-ups/pull-ups, and other “pulling” exercises can help you build wrist and finger strength. With stronger wrist muscles and joints, you’ll have a lower risk of injuries that typically affect weaker wrists, such as hypertension. 

 

Emphasize Proper Form When Saving the Ball

Developing proper goalkeeper form is essential to prevent injury, especially for developing keepers who see the ball as something to just swat or catch. You can apply proper form to both how you handle the ball and handle your falls. 

When it comes to blocking, you want to focus on angling your arms, wrists and fingers slightly forward (pictured above). The arms shouldn’t stick directly out to your side but rather, slightly forward. When catching the ball, your wrists should be neutral or slightly forward, not bent backward. Also, you want to catch the ball with a “W”-shape formed by the hands. That means keeping your palms wide and hands close with the thumbs almost touching. 

When falling, you should avoid letting your body hit the ground all at once. If you land on your hands this way, there’s a good chance that the impact will injure your fingers or wrists. Instead, you want the body to hit the ground in a collapsed fashion. That is, landing softly on the ground, putting the ball down first to cushion the impact, and then landing on the hip and shoulder.

 

Soccer Goalkeeper Gloves & Wrist-Taping to Protect Your Hands

Of course, protection against finger injuries would be incomplete without goalkeeper gloves. With that said, it’s important to choose the right soccer goalkeeper gloves , as they’re not all built the same. Some offer more protection while others offer less. You must also give thought to how these gloves affect your performance and comfort. 

Goalkeeper gloves containing fingersaves - spines that run the length of each finger - are your best bet against hand injuries. Fingersaves restrict the mobility of your fingers, which protects them from hyperextensions and tendon damage caused by catching the ball awkwardly. 

Professional goalkeepers often avoid fingersaves because of this restriction of mobility, as they believeit might diminish their performance. However, for beginner keepers, soccer gloves with fingersaves are ideal. In our case, we offer several gloves that contain removable fingersaves, so keepers can take them out if necessary. They include:

  • Silencer Ploy Glove - A roll negative hybrid cut glove that’s recommended for high performance (no fingersaves), but still comes with removable finger saves for those who need them.
  • Silencer Menace Glove - A roll negative hybrid cut glove that comes with removable finger spines, along with superior grip and a snug fit. 
  • Gladiator Elite 3 - A flat palm cut glove with roll thumbs that include five removable finger saves. 

Additionally, wrist and finger taping can offer much-needed protection for the wrists and hands. For example, Seattle Sounders goalkeeper, Stef Frei, has dealt with his share of hand injuries, and began taping his fingers and wrists to keep them at bay. We recommend this for keepers too. Adapted from Jiu-Jitsu and MMA, these taping practices add stability to the digits so that they’re not easily bent out of place. 

This is ideal for elite and professional goalkeepers who prefer to ditch finger saves, but GKs at lower levels can still use taping if they choose.

Get a Grip on Goalkeeper Injuries

Hand injuries are frustrating and seriously affect your game, even if they’re minor. True, it’s not possible to completely avoid them all, but you can bring the risk of sustaining such injuries way down. 

The key is to use the three strategies above - regular conditioning, proper technique, and protective equipment. By ensuring you’re doing all three, you can spend less time on the sidelines and more time making epic saves!

Looking to protect your hands from injury while unlocking next level performance? Browse through our selection of goalie gloves to help take your safety and dominance to the next level! 



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