What are Sports Injuries?
Sports injuries are injuries that most commonly occur during sports and exercises. These injuries may result from accidents, poor training practices, use of improper protective gear, lack of conditioning, and insufficient warm-up and stretching. Sports injuries may be either acute (sprains, fractures, tears) or chronic (tendonitis, overuse injury) injuries.
Causes of Hands and Wrists Sports Injuries
Hands are wrists are made of several different ligaments, tendons, bones, and joints that are instrumental in their working. Injuries are common in the hands and wrists because they are readily exposed to impact from various sports such as baseball, volleyball, basketball, hockey, football, and tennis. These injuries can occur from falls that force the fingers or hand backward, forceful impacts to the hands and wrists, or direct blows to the body.
Common Types of Hand and Wrist Sports Injuries
Athletes' hands and wrists are susceptible to a variety of injuries that can make regular tasks challenging on and off the field. Some of the common sports injuries that may affect the hands and wrists include:
- Colles Wrist Fracture: A Colles fracture is defined as a break in the radius bone close to the wrist. Usually, the break is noted about an inch below where the radius bone joins the wrist. A Colles fracture is a common fracture that occurs more often in women than men.
- Jammed Finger: A jammed finger is an acute injury that occurs when the end of the finger is struck while it is fully extended. This type of injury most commonly occurs in sports like basketball that involves contact with a ball. The injury can range in severity from a simple sprain to a fracture or dislocation.
- Scaphoid Fracture: A scaphoid fracture is an acute wrist injury caused by a fracture in one of the small wrist bones. This sports injury is quite frequent among football players and is caused by landing onto an outstretched hand, putting all your weight on your palm, and hyperextending your wrist.
- Skier’s Thumb: Skier’s thumb is an acute injury to the ligament located at the base of the thumb. This sports injury occurs when the thumb is forcefully bent backward causing the ligament to rupture. This injury may occur during any sport but received its name from skiers falling onto their hand while firmly holding a ski pole, causing forced radial deviation of the thumb.
- Wrist Ligament Tear: A rupture in the wrist ligament or cartilage can be caused by an overuse injury or acute trauma. It most commonly occurs as a result of a hard fall on an outstretched arm, forcing the wrist to twist awkwardly. Over time, repetitive tension and wrist movement can also cause the cartilage in the wrist to pull away from the bone.
- De Quervain’s Tenosynovitis: De Quervain's Tenosynovitis is a painful condition characterized by inflammation of tendons (tissue that connects muscles to bones) on the thumb side of your wrist. This condition is common in sports involving repetitive movements, such as golf and tennis, and the pain is manifested when you grasp something, make a fist, or turn your wrist.
- Bowler’s Thumb: This is a type of injury that occurs when your thumb fits very tightly in the bowling ball. Your ulnar nerve, situated on the inside of the thumb, may become trapped due to this and cause pain, tingling, weakness, and numbness.
What are the Symptoms of Hand and Wrist Sports Injuries?
Signs and symptoms of hand and wrist injuries include:
- Loss of motion
Diagnosis of Hand and Wrist Sports Injuries
Your doctor will review your symptoms and medical history and perform a thorough physical examination to assess the range of motion, stability of the wrist and hand, and any ligament or tendon damage. Blood flow and skin color are also evaluated. The following diagnostic tests may be performed for further evaluation:
- X-rays: This study uses high-energy electromagnetic beams to produce images of the bones to help detect fractures.
- Computerized tomography (CT) scan: In this study, multiple x-rays are used to produce detailed cross-sectional images of the bones, blood vessels, and soft tissues.
- Electromyography (EMG) and nerve conduction studies to measure nerve impulses and nerve damage.
Treatment for Hand and Wrist Sports Injuries
Treatments for wrist and hand injuries depends upon the severity of the injury sustained and may involve either nonsurgical or surgical treatment, such as the following:
- Medications: Your doctor may prescribe analgesics and anti-inflammatory medications such as ibuprofen and naproxen to relieve pain and inflammation.
- Icing: Applying an ice pack over a towel on the affected area for several minutes a day may help to relieve pain and swelling.
- Physical Therapy: Strengthening and stretching exercises can help improve range of motion and strengthen the hand and wrist muscles.
- Cortisone Injections: Injection of corticosteroid medication directly into the affected wrist and hand can help relieve pain and swelling.
- Casting and Splinting: For wrist and hand fractures where bones are not displaced your physician may place your broken bone in a cast or splint until the bone heals satisfactorily.
- Open Reduction and Internal Fixation (ORIF): This is a surgical treatment for fractures with completely displaced and/or crushed bones. It involves the realignment of the bones of the hand and wrist with the help of rods, wires, splints, and casts.
- Tendon Repair: Tendon repair surgery is performed to repair a torn or ruptured tendon and involves stitching the damaged ends of the tendon together and restore normal function and movement to the hand and wrist. Surgery performed within 24 hours of the injury is associated with better outcomes.
- Nerve Repair: This is a complex surgery performed immediately after a nerve injury, as damage to any of the three main nerves of the hand may lead to limited use or compromised range of motion of the hand, fingers, and wrist.