Did you know that sports injuries affect around 3.5 million teens and children each year? While adolescents are not the only demographic at risk from sports injuries, they usually engage in many athletic events.
Athlete injuries are orthopedic issues that can push someone out of playing in a sport or athletic event.
Certain groups of athletes are more susceptible to a hand or wrist sports-related injury. The hand and wrist is a small region made up of many joints, ligaments, and tendons. This makes them prone to some common overuse and acute injuries.
Before diving into common athletic hand and wrist injuries, it is important to review a few common terms. For instance, a ligament is different from a tendon, as chronic injuries are from acute injuries.
Ligaments and tendons are both tissues that support joints and muscles. A ligament connects one bone to another – a common example is the anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) in your knee.
A tendon connects bone to muscle – recently, the NBA has seen popular players suffer an Achilles tendon tear. This specific tendon attaches the muscle in your calf to your heel.
Your body has many ligaments and tendons. When you overstretch or tear one of them, they are classified under different categories. You might use the terms strain and sprain interchangeably, but they are different.
A sprain is when a ligament is overstretched, whereas a strain is when a tendon or muscle is overstretched. Both instances have three grades of severity – grade 1, grade 2, and grade 3.
As you might determine, grade 1 is a mild injury, grade 2 is slightly worse, and grade 3 is a complete tear.
Overuse, or chronic, injuries happen when you use certain muscle groups respectively. In return, this adds increased strain on your joints and muscles – especially if your form or technique is suffering.
These injuries pop up down the road and can linger. Sometimes, they are more difficult to diagnose and treat because of the nature of overuse injuries.
An acute injury is an obvious event where an injury occurs. An example of this is when an athlete falls and breaks their wrist. The exact time and occurrence of the injury is a single, acute event.
#1 Wrist Fractures
You have likely already heard of common sports-related injuries. One common instance is falling on an outstretched arm and fracturing your wrist. This doesn’t always occur when you fall, but the unfortunate few have experienced this.
Why is it common?
If you think back to how many times you were knocked to the ground when playing sports (whether professional or casual), the answer is probably quite a few times. Additionally, how many of those times did you stretch out your arm to break the fall?
The scaphoid bone is a small bone near the thumb. It commonly takes the brunt of the impact when you have fallen. Usually, the physician will opt to splint and stabilize the site first.
If the fracture does not heal on its own after 12 weeks, then surgery might be the next step. The orthopedic surgeon will either use reduction, internal fixation, or bone grafting.
#2 Wrist Sprains
A wrist sprain can occur instead of a fracture and is frequently seen in athletes. The mechanism of injury is often the same – a fall on an outstretched hand. However, instead of a fracture, you overstretch the ligaments.
Some sources have taken a different approach to the common R.I.C.E. protocol and added another letter. P.R.I.C.E. stands for: protect the joint, rest, ice, compress, and elevate.
With many sprains, including a wrist sprain, this is typically the first line of defense.
Technically, tendonitis can happen anywhere in the body. The wrist is a common area that will flare-up. Tendonitis falls under the umbrella term of a chronic injury.
However, an acute injury can lead to a chronic injury if it never heals.
The more exact definition is the overuse of a tendon. This can happen from poor body mechanics or overusing certain muscle groups. There are many different tendons that cross the wrist joint, but you don’t have to be knowledgeable on all of them – that is what your orthopedic physician is there for.
#4 Carpal Tunnel Syndrome
Predisposal to carpal tunnel syndrome (CTS) is likely if you have dealt with wrist tendonitis and other injuries in the region. The carpal tunnel is a region from the palm of your hand down to your wrist.
This “tunnel” encompasses several tendons and your median nerve. With many injuries to the wrist and tendons, you start with swelling and pain. If that swelling does not go away, it can press up against your median nerve.
When this happens, you will start experiencing numbness or tingling in your thumb, index, or middle finger. The pain can intensify as the carpal tunnel gets worse.
CTS is so common that it affects up to 2% of the population. If your symptoms are not improving, then there are surgical treatments available. The “No Stitch” Procedure is a newer surgical technique with a minimally invasive approach.
From this 10 minute procedure, you will have a quicker recovery time and no stitches. And the best part is that it has a 98% success rate.
#5 Finger Sprains
Moving down the arm – a hand sports-related injury is also very common. Finger sprains are likely something everyone has experienced who has played a contact sport.
Otherwise known as “jammed finger”, this injury can lead to chronic issues. The most frequent occurrence of a sprained finger happens in the middle joint. It is usually caused by some form of impact that hyperextends that joint and leads to pain, swelling, and an inability to grip objects.
Most often this leads to a simple sprain that requires time and rest. If the impact is strong enough, it can cause a finger dislocation where the joint is displaced.
A finger dislocation is pretty easy to spot, as it will often be positioned off to the side. A dislocation requires medical attention so that the joint is properly set. Additionally, it is helpful to get an X-Ray to check for any fractures.
#6 Finger Fractures
Finger fractures can frequently be managed with proper splinting from your local physician. However, up to 30% of finger fractures or dislocations are referred to hand specialists because of the severity of the injury or instability.
Additionally, finger fractures are the most common type of fracture in sports-related injuries. There are many different types of fractures within the finger, and finding success through a specialist will ensure that you are back to playing your sport in less time.
#7 Mallet Finger
Sometimes this leads to what is known as a mallet finger. In baseball, if the force and speed of the ball hit your finger just right then you can suffer severe tearing in the extensor tendon. This makes it nearly impossible to fully straighten the finger.
Most orthopedic surgeons and physicians will opt to splint the finger for the best healing. During this time, it is crucial that you leave the splint on to reduce the risk of re-injuring the area. If there is a fracture or the finger is poorly healing, you may need surgery.
#8 Thumb Sprains
A thumb sprain happens when the thumb is pushed back into hyperextension. It causes overstretching of the extensor tendon and leads to pain, swelling, and impaired grasp. Common sports that see this injury are rock climbing and football.
Most cases are easily treated at home but more severe instances could require splinting or the expertise of an orthopedic specialist.
Along those lines, skiers can injure their ulnar collateral ligament in what is known as “skier’s thumb.” This has similar symptoms and skiers will find it difficult to grip their ski poles.
#9 De Quervain’s Tenosynovitis
This syndrome happens in the thumb when two specific tendons are overused. If the tendons are constantly overstretched, or their synovial sheaths, then it can lead to pain, swelling, or numbness.
De Quervain’s can impact those who play golf, tennis, or tennis because of the importance of the position of the thumb with those sports.
#10 Tennis Hand Injuries
Tennis payers are prone to a variety of injuries – one of those being triangular fibrocartilage complex (TFCC) tears. If you are a tennis player who uses a western grip and heavy forehand movements, you are at risk of this injury.
TFCC is found on the pinky side of your hand. It acts as a stabilizer for your forearm bones and assists in grasping or rotating objects. The first line of defense in managing a TFCC tear is resting and splinting the region.
Steroid injections and physical therapy are also treatment plans your specialist could resort to.
You’ve heard about some of the ten most common sports-related injuries. Here is an added bonus injury – although it is not so much an injury as a result of overuse. In some cases, doctors aren’t sure what causes a ganglion cyst.
A ganglion cyst is basically a fluid-filled sac that can build up over time on the tendon. They can be painful or cause swelling in the area.
Typically, a ganglion cyst is commonly seen as an overuse injury for those who frequently use their hands. This makes it a common hand injury for gymnasts, among others.
Sometimes, a ganglion cyst disappears on its own. Fifty percent of cases don’t disappear with time and require intervention. A qualified surgeon will either remove the fluid from the sac or surgically remove it.
In general, ganglion cysts should not result in long-term problems and has a good outcome following surgery.
Athlete Injuries and Specialists
Wrist and hand injury treatment is crucial to proper recovery and returning to your sport. While many primary care physicians handle basic injuries, a hand and wrist specialist can intervene with more complex issues. If you are also finding that your injury is not healing, then a trip to your specialist is in order.
If an injury is traumatic – such as excessive bleeding or obvious bone deformity – then you should immediately seek medical care.
Most hand and wrist injuries in athletes occur over time. In that case, you may not seek medical care right away.
An orthopedic specialist for hands and wrists is helpful at this stage to prevent further damage and issues. You can see in the case of carpal tunnel syndrome how simple wrist sprains lead to further damage.
Treatment at the chronic stage can include surgery, splinting, steroid injections, and referrals to physical therapists. Physical therapy is useful during all the stages of your specialist consulting.
If you are opting for therapy, the physical therapist can assist you in strengthening and mobilizing the area safely. Following surgery, therapy’s focus is on your return to sport and pace your time frame.
Many times, you will want to move faster than what the physical therapist or surgeon suggests. The time immediately after surgery is critical to follow professional guidelines and advice so that you don’t reinjure the area.
Hand and Wrist Orthopedic Specialist
Being an athlete is time-consuming and hard work. Many athletes will experience an injury at some point in their lift. When setbacks happen, you want to make sure you, or your loved one, are in capable hands.
You need the trusted and trained expertise of surgeons who have dealt with many hand and wrist injuries.
Athlete injuries are some of the most commonly seen problems at a specialty clinic, and you can rest easy knowing that you, your child, or your loved one, will receive professional and quality care.
Don’t wait any longer – schedule an appointment today at a reputable clinic and get back to your life.