SportsDoc Update: Trey Burke 10/16/13
1280 The Zone - October 16th, 2013
"Trey Burke's finger fracture - is it 4, 6, 8, or 12 weeks? "
As has been reported Trey Burke has a fracutured finger that required surgery to repair. As we discussed on the radio, in the old days we would have just pulled on the finger if it looked like it was going sideways to line up the bones and then buddy tape it and let it heal, most of the time continuing to play. Many of us old jocks have one or more fingers that look a little crooked that we can hold up that are evidence of our athletic careers. If you ever get the chance to shake Coach Mac's hand you'll see this on his 5th finger, I've got a couple of those, too. At least we have a story behind the injury to remember.
With improved techniques and hardware (pins and plates that weren't available or used in the "old days") finger fractures can be repaired and the bones held in place by surgical techniques. The timing on how soon an athlete can return to play is dictated by the time it takes for the bone to heal, the amount of scar tissue that forms and restricts movement, and how conservative the physician that does it is.
The 4 week time is the time it takes for the bone to heal sufficiently to hold together on its own. While not at full strength, the finger bone can usually be splinted at this point and rehab to get range of motion back can be started. At 6 weeks the bone will be stronger and some of the movement regained, so it is now that playing with a splint on is possible if everything has gone well. More conservative care would require full range of motion to be attained before playing and this would be generally at 8 weeks. The 12 week time given was if things don't go well like an infection after surgery, failure of the bone to heal properly, too much scar tissue forming so the range of motion is too limited to allow the finger to function, or a very conservative physician.
In the best of circumstances Burke would be allowed to play with a splint on in four weeks while rehabbing the injury. That would be while he is still rehabbing the finger. It may not be game ready, but he could at least be practicing with the team which would be huge for him and the team.