Viciously thrusting my hand forward, determined to get the grip that I need I find myself defeated frequently not by some magnificent attack from my opponent, but by their gi successfully jamming or breaking my finger. If you are new to the mat, the first time this happens can cause serious frustration and pain all at once. The immediate throbbing and nerve screaming makes you think that your fingers will never be useful again. Fear not newbies - you are now part of an elite club. Members wear “boxer’s breaks” with pride and understand that “judo fingers” require fattened joints that wedding rings don’t fit over (thank you silicone rings!).
The first rule of the ‘broken finger club’ is understanding that tape is your new best friend. Many people prefer to head to the doctor, supplied with an official stiff splint and an $80 ibuprofen, however those who have been around the block a bit know that with the right tape job you will be back to battling, looking like a true (taped up) badass, the very next day. Instead of wasting your time guessing how to tape your fingers, doing it in a manner that doesn’t properly support your fingers, awkwardly asking people at the gym and them all giving you different answers- check out the video & steps below.
Step 1 : Tear strips of tape that are the length of your injured finger (twice the lower knuckle to top of finger). You will need 2 strips of tape this length (for steps 2 & 3).
Step 2: Attach the strip of tape from the front side of your finger, over the top, to the backside of your finger. Do not apply it so tight that your finger can not bend - you want to be able to move your knuckles still. Be sure to press the tape flat against your skin.
Step 3: Attach the strip of tape from the left side of your finger, over the top, to the right side of your finger. Do not apply it so tight that your finger can not bend - you want to be able to move your knuckles still. Be sure to press the tape flat on top of the other tape.
Step 4: Tear strips of tape that will fit between your knuckles- wrap 3 strips around that finger, between each knuckle.
Step 6: Repeat steps 1 -4 on the finger next to your injured finger. Both should look like little mummy fingers now.
Step 7: Take 2 strips of tape that are the width between (1- your hand & lowest knuckle, 2- your lowest knuckle and highest knuckle). They should be long enough to wrap around both taped fingers, 2 times.
Step 8: Tape the injured and un-injured mummified fingers together between the hand and the lowest knuckle. You should still be able to bend them at the knuckle.
Step 9: Repeat step 8 for between the lowest & highest knuckle on those same 2 fingers.
Step 10 (optional): Many people mummify the other fingers to keep tape from the injured fingers from rubbing and irritating the skin but this is totally optional and doesn’t impact everyone.
*** Many people skip steps 1-3, which is fine, but the benefit of these steps is that it keeps the tape in steps 4+ on-wards from rubbing on your skin and tearing. Totally a personal preference. Elite players, or people who hope to go live lots of rounds find steps 1-3,& 10 critical during intense training.***
Let me caveat all of this by mentioning that if anything feels really off - or your bone breaks through the skin - or your coach tells you - GO TO THE DOCTOR & SEE A SPECIALIST. But for soreness or a run of the mill jam, following the tape job laid out above, is typically all you need.
If I have a really painful busted finger I will tape them together when at work or while sleeping as well. If taping them together isn’t an option at home (it can make typing hard), I also will use a home-made split with a clothespin & tape (if you insist on spending money, you can purchase “real ones” as well) to provide extra support, ensuring that I am not using the injured finger, and allowing for swelling to decrease during the day. Sure I may look a little crazy taped up in public, but I am a mat rat, so I am a little crazy. My healing pain-free is more important than a few stares at business meetings.
Be sure to keep a solid tape job even a few days after the finger feels 95% healed because those phalanges are delicate little soldiers. Better to keep them secure for a few extra days then feel unnecessarily un-comfy while they finish healing up.
So welcome to the club buttercup.
Sorry for the throbbing pain and immediate fear that you will never text again. But fear not, you will live to swipe another day.
Now grab some tape you former hand models and get back on the mat.