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Look after those digits!

What’s worse for a guitarist than breaking a fingernail?  Plenty of it seems!  The unthinkable is an injury sufficient to prevent us from playing the guitar.  Some injuries are more subtle than others, such as the breaking or tearing of finger tendons or ligaments.  One common injury is known as ‘mallet finger’ affecting the movement of the end finger bone caused by damage to the tendon that straightens your finger, otherwise known as the extensor tendon.  This is common not just with musicians but also those involved in sports, cleaning, gardening and such activities.  Sometimes the most trivial activity such as digging and pulling weeds from a garden bed can lead to disaster for a musician.  Another common scenario is attempting to catch a flying ball (playing cricket, basketball, rugby, etc) if it clips the tip of a finger forcing it in the wrong direction.  Depending on the situation the injury can be mild or serious, possibly needing finger surgery.  However, the news is not so good for guitarists even if dealing with the mild case scenario.  To allow the finger to fully repair itself, it must be kept permanently in a finger splint for 6 to 8 weeks, and then there is a period of gradual finger rehabilitation.  This differs a bit from case to case and the older you are the longer the recovery takes.  In fact tendons take much longer than bones to knit together.  So if you are a guitarist involved in the very healthy activities of gardening or sports, and value your fingers, you need to take the utmost care.  It doesn’t take much to end up ‘on the bench’ for a couple of months with your normal guitar playing.  Don’t give up though, as there is more than one way to play a guitar and make music.  See it as time to use your imagination and try something different for a while.