While hand and wrist injuries are widespread, some athletes never seek treatment. Unfortunately, delaying the diagnosis and treatment may result in long-term problems or even a permanent disability. Here is a list of some of the most common injuries athletes experience.
Types of Sprains occurred in Sports
Sprains are damage to ligaments; a ligament is a type of tissue that connects bone to bone. There are different grades of sprain, from a minor tear to complete rupture. Treatment and recovery time will depend on the degree of sprain.
Breaking a fall with the palm of your hand or taking a spill on the slopes with your hand strapped to a ski pole could leave you with a painful thumb injury. The ulnar collateral ligament may be sprained. This ligament acts as a hinge and helps your thumb to function correctly. If you sprain your thumb, you could lose some or all of your ability to grasp items between your thumb and index finger or to grasp well with the entire hand.
When you fall forward, as when you trip running or rollerblading, your natural response is to put your hands out in front of you to catch yourself. Unfortunately, this natural response causes you to land on your palm, bending your wrist backward and possibly stretching or tearing the ligaments connecting the bones in your wrist. The resulting injury is a wrist sprain.
Injuries to the Bone
Bones can be fractured and dislocated; a fracture is a crack or break in a bone and is commonly referred to as broken bone. A dislocation is when a bone is pushed out of place to no longer line up correctly at the joint. This can decrease the ability to move and cause pain.
Fractures of the metacarpals (the bones in your hand just before your knuckles) and your phalanges (the bones between your fingers’ joints) are also common sports or outdoor injuries. This happens during extreme g events when you misalign the use of your hands.
The most common fracture of the metacarpals is a boxer’s fracture. A boxer’s fracture usually occurs when you strike an object with your closed fist. With a boxer’s fracture, the fifth metacarpal joint (the one at the base of your littlest finger) is depressed, and the surrounding tissue is tender and swollen.
Scaphoid fractures account for many wrist fractures. The scaphoid bone is one of eight small bones that make up the wrist. Wrist fractures are common both in sports and motor vehicle accidents. The break usually occurs during a fall on the outstretched wrist. The angle at which the wrist hits the ground may determine the type of injury. The more the wrist is bent back (extension), the more likely the scaphoid bone will break. With less wrist extension, it is more likely the lower arm bone (radius) will fail.
Scaphoid fractures are not always immediately apparent. Many people with a fractured scaphoid think they have a sprained wrist instead of a broken bone because there is no obvious deformity and minimal swelling.
Dislocations of the PIP joint
One of the most common injuries to an athlete’s hand is an injury to the joint above the knuckle, the proximal interphalangeal (PIP) joint. Injuries to the PIP joint occur when the finger is either hyperextended (forced backward) or forced into flexion (downward into a bent position). Injuries to the PIP joint may include fractures, dislocations, and fracture-dislocations.
Soft Tissue and Closed Tendon Injuries
Tendons are a type of connective tissue that attaches muscle to bone. A common injury of the tendon is called tendonitis, and irritation of the tissue.
DeQuervain’s syndrome is a common injury in racquet sports and athletes who use a lot of wrist motion, mostly repetitive rotating and gripping.
De Quervain’s Tenosynovitis
The overuse of the hand may eventually cause irritation of the tendons found along the wrist’s thumb side. This irritation causes the lining around the tendon to swell, making it difficult for the tendons to move correctly.
Extensor carpi ulnaris (ECU) tendonitis is another common sports-related closed tendon injury. ECU tendonitis is an inflammation of the tendon that runs along the back of the wrist and is caused by repetitive twisting and backward flexion of the wrist. It is most commonly seen in basketball players and those playing racquet sports.
Baseball finger (or mallet finger) is an injury that commonly occurs at the beginning of the baseball season. It occurs when a ball hits the tip of your finger, bending it down, tearing the extensor tendon that controls the muscle movement in the affected finger. If the force is great enough, it may even pull tiny pieces of bone away, as well.
Jersey’s finger is the opposite of the mallet finger. It occurs when the fingertip, usually the ring finger, is forcibly extended, such as if your finger gets caught in an opponent’s jersey. This causes the flexor tendon, which bends the fingertip, to be pulled away from the bone, leaving you unable to turn your finger without assistance.
Boutonnière deformity is an injury to the tendons that straighten your fingers. It occurs when your finger receives a forceful blow when it is bent. Several tendons, running along the side and top of your finger, work together to straighten the finger. The tear looks like a buttonhole (“boutonnière” in French). If you have a boutonnière deformity, your finger’s middle joint will bend downward, and the fingertip end joint bends back. People with a boutonnière deformity cannot fully straighten their fingers.
What are the types of wrist injuries and disorders?
Some of the more common types of wrist injuries and disorders are
- Carpal tunnel syndrome, which happens when a nerve that runs from your forearm into your palm becomes squeezed at the wrist
- Ganglion cysts, which are noncancerous lumps or masses
- Gout, which is a form of arthritis caused by a buildup of uric acid in your joints
- Fractures (broken bones)
- Osteoarthritis, the most common type of arthritis. It is caused by wear and tear of the joints.
- Sprains and strains, which are injuries to ligaments and injuries to muscles or tendons
- Tendinitis, inflammation of a tendon, usually due to overuse
Who is at risk for wrist injuries and disorders?
Certain things can put you at higher risk of having a wrist problem, including
- Doing sports, which can put you at risk for injuries and puts stress on your wrist. For example, you may fall on your outstretched hand when you are skating or snowboarding. Your wrist could be injured while doing contact sports. And other sports such as gymnastics and basketball can strain your wrists.
- Making repetitive wrist motions, such as typing on a keyboard, working on an assembly line, or using power tools.
- Having certain diseases. For example, rheumatoid arthritis can cause wrist pain.
What are the symptoms of wrist injuries and disorders?
The symptoms of a wrist problem can vary, depending on the situation. A common symptom is wrist pain. Some other possible signs include swelling, a decrease in wrist strength, and sudden numbness or tingling.
How are wrist injuries and disorders diagnosed?
To make a diagnosis, your healthcare provider
- Will take your medical history and ask about your symptoms
- Will do a physical exam, including checking your wrist strength and range of motion
- May do an x-ray or other imaging test
- May do blood tests
What are the treatments for wrist injuries and disorders?
Treatments for wrist pain depends on the type of injury or disorder. They may include
- Resting your wrist
- Wearing a wrist brace or cast
- Pain relievers
- Cortisone shots
- Physical therapy
To try to prevent wrist problems, you can
- Use wrist guards when doing sports that put you at risk for wrist injuries.
- In the workplace, perform stretching exercises and take frequent rest breaks. You should also pay attention to ergonomics to ensure that you are using the proper wrist position while working.
- Make sure that you get enough calcium and vitamin D to keep your bones healthy.
While falls cause a lot of wrist sprains, you can also get them by:
- Being hit in the wrist.
- Exerting extreme pressure on the wrist or twisting it
Wrist sprains are common in:
- Basketball players
- Baseball players
- Skiers, especially when they fall while still holding a pole
- Inline skaters
Wrist sprains also can happen to anyone who takes a fall or gets hit on the wrist.
What Does a Wrist Sprain Feel Like?
Symptoms of a wrist sprain are:
- Tenderness and warmth around the injury
- Feeling a popping or tearing in the wrist
- Loss of motion
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