Dealing with Hand and Wrist Injuries
Many sports require the repeated use of an athlete’s hands throughout the entirety of a game, and injuries to the hand or wrist are almost inevitable because of this, the most common being sprains and fractures. Though common, these injuries should be treated just as seriously as others due to the fact that an untreated sprain or fracture can significantly hinder one’s abilities.
Due to the rising number of high school and collegiate athletes, the rate of sports injuries in general is on the rise. In terms of joint injuries, shoulders and knees are often seen at the forefront, but hands and wrists are typically more prone to complications in the world of sports. Sudden onset injuries, also known as acute injuries, can be caused by falling onto the hand, or sudden twisting movements leading to fractures, ligament tears, and general tissue damage. Gradual onset injuries occur over a period of time due to repetitive motions or over use of a specific ligament.
Injuries can be categorized by radial-sided wrist injuries, ulnar-sided wrist injuries, and general hand and finger injuries. On the radial side, scaphoid fractures are the most common involving the carpal bone. Scapholunate ligament tears are caused by hyperextensions, and are very common in contact sports. On the ulnar side, extensor carpi ulnaris injuries can manifest as tendinosis, dislocations, or ruptures. All of which can cause severe pain, especially when untreated.
When faced with a fractured or sprained hand injury of any kind, the first step that should be taken is seeing a medical professional to properly diagnose the injury. Should a compound fracture occur where the broken bone pierces the skin and is visible, cover the area with a bandage and do not attempt to reset the bone. Ice, compression, and elevation is the standard when faced with pain and swelling as well. Upon receiving an X-ray to determine the severity of the injury, casts or splints are most common to prevent further damage. Patients typically wear these anywhere from 4 to 8 weeks, allowing proper time for a fracture or torn ligament to heal. Surgery may be required in more extreme cases.
Now in the recovery stage, it is vital to keep your fingers moving. Little to no movement can cause stiffness, and increase the chance of a second injury. Hand therapy is often suggested, and should be discussed with your doctor for the best practices. When returning to sports, wearing a flexible brace in-game can prevent further injury, though it is not guaranteed. Once healed, be sure to continue exercises strengthening the muscles in your wrists and hands.