5 most common wrist injuries in sports and exercise
For an active person, a wrist injury might not be as common as a shoulder or knee injury. These common wrist injuries can be challenging, though, for competitive athletes or people who play sports requiring wrist motion, like golf and tennis.
According to Dr. David Geier, the more common traumatic injuries of the wrist are:
1. Distal radius fracture
- A distal radius fracture means that you broke the bone at the wrist. Athletes and non-athletes alike can suffer this injury.
- Often results from a fall on your outstretched hand
- A displaced fracture, where the bone doesn’t line up well, usually needs urgent reduction in an emergency department.
- A nondisplaced fracture can often be treated in a cast.
2. Scaphoid fracture
- The scaphoid is a bone located on the radial side of the wrist (side closest to the thumb).
- Often results from a fall on your outstretched hand
- Nondisplaced fractures in certain locations can be treated in a cast.
- A displaced fracture needs anatomic reduction and fixation with a screw.
- If a scaphoid fracture doesn’t heal or it heals in a bad position, long-term degenerative changes in the wrist can develop. It is important to diagnose this injury and start treatment quickly to ensure the fracture heals.
3. Extensor Carpi Ulnaris (ECU) subluxation
- The extensor carpi ulnaris (ECU) is one of the tendons that crosses the back of the wrist to extend your wrist and fingers. The ECU tendon lies close to the ulnar styloid, the bony prominence on the back and ulnar side of the wrist (side closest to the little finger).
- A traumatic twisting injury to the wrist can rupture the tissue that holds this tendon in place. You might feel the tendon snap over the ulnar styloid with certain activities.
- If you have subluxation of the ECU tendon, you might need surgery to repair that tissue and stabilize the tendon.
4. Hook of the Hamate fracture
- The hamate is one of the small bones on the ulnar side of the wrist.
- You can fracture a small portion of this bone when your wrist motion stops suddenly as an object you’re holding hits a hard surface.
- X-rays and occasionally CT scans can demonstrate this fracture.
- Wearing a wrist brace can decrease pain. For some people who continue to have pain, the surgeon can remove the bony fragment.
5. Triangular Fibrocartilage Complex (TFFC) tear
- The TFCC is a cartilage and ligament structure on the ulnar side of the wrist.
- You can injure it after a traumatic event or with repetitive use of your wrist.
- Arthroscopic surgery to trim out or repair the torn structure is occasionally necessary.
Common wrist and hand injuries that occur in athletes
There are sports that yield a high level of hand and wrist injuries which, if left untreated, can become devastating, leaving players benched for the season or out of the game for good. This is why it’s extremely important to seek prompt and proper treatment if an injury occurs.
- Wrist sprains – one of the most common wrist injuries, wrist sprain occurs when a ligament is torn or stretched, and frequently occurs by falling over the wrist, or twisting it abnormally while playing a sport.
- Wrist fractures – Due to the high intensity and amount of physicality required for sports like volleyball, football, hockey, and basketball, fractures are also one of the most common wrist injuries. It can be caused by falling on the wrist, twisting it abnormally, or being struck by a forceful object.
- ECU Tendonitis – also known as the “extensor carpal ulnar tendinitis”, is common in sports like basketball, volleyball and baseball where the wrists are utilized more than other muscles.
- Baseball Finger – is a finger deformity that is caused by damage in the extensor tendon of the thumb. This injury is caused by an external force (like a ball) striking the thumb at a high rate of speed.
- Jersey Finger – affects the flexor tendons of the fingers. This injury was named after the way football players pull on their opponent’s jerseys – when a player tries to grab the jersey of another player in motion, he exposes his tendons to a risk of breakage. This particular condition is characterized by swelling and mild pain in the fingers, and may result in a finger fracture.
3 steps to take in the first five minutes after a wrist or hand injury
With wrist and hand injuries, knowing what to do in the first five minutes is crucial:
1. Control the bleeding and stabilize. Direct pressure is an important first step. Use a clean cloth or paper towel to apply direct pressure. Do not remove the cloth or paper towel after the pressure has been applied because that slows the clot from forming. Only in extreme circumstances should you put a tourniquet around your arm. If you have a wrist injury, stabilizing it helps reduce pain as you go to the emergency department.
2. Get help. It is important that you get help as soon as possible from someone nearby or calling 911. Even common wrist injuries shouldn’t wait until the next day to be evaluated. It is safest if you do not drive yourself to the emergency department.
3. Collect anything severed. If the injury included a severed body part, bring it with you to the emergency department. While the severed body part may not be able to be reattached, it may provide other functions such as tissue for skin grafts.
How to manage ‘texting thumb' pain
In his practice in Penticton, B.C., Paul Girard, a certified hand therapist and member of the Physiotherapy Association of British Columbia, occasionally treats cases of de Quervain’s tenosynovitis, or so-called “texting thumb,” in individuals complaining of soreness from using their handheld devices.
This overuse injury affects the tendons running along the thumb-side of the wrist, and is characterized by swelling, pain and hampered function, Girard says.
Giving up your phone would certainly help, but let’s face it: that’s not realistic. Girard suggests introducing some modifications, such as using voice-recognition software, setting your phone down instead of holding it in your hand when you text, or using your fingers more to give your thumbs a break.
5 wrist exercises to reduce pain from keyboard-typing
Perform these quick wrist stretches to relieve tension that comes from too much typing:
1. Open and expand your hands
2. Reverse grip of your wrists
3. Waggle and circle thumbs
4. Prayer hands
5. Take your hands off the keyboard more often
Visit the link below for more info on how to do these exercises.
Thank you for reading “Common Wrist Injuries in Sports, First Aid for Hand Injuries and Tips on Dealing With ‘Texting Thumb' Pain”