8 Common Hand Injuries for Professional Athletes

Common Hand Injuries

There are thousands of professional athletes in the United States today, plus many more hoping to find success in their chosen sport. There are, of course, many wonderful benefits to being a professional athlete, including the opportunity to pursue your sporting dreams, the potential earnings, and the fame that goes with it.

However, there are also many challenges that professional athletes face in their careers. Injuries are a common theme among professional sports and they have the ability to jeopardize an athlete’s chances at success.

In this blog post, we will highlight 8 common hand injuries that professional athletes, across all types of sports, face. These include carpal tunnel syndrome, tendonitis, wrist and thumb injuries, finger fractures, and more.

Certain types of athletes may be more susceptible to hand injuries than others. For example, in sports that require repetitive motions, hand and wrist injuries are common. These include tennis, golf, and baseball. However, it should be noted that athletes of all disciplines risk hand and wrist injuries, including during a fall while competing.

1. Carpal Tunnel Syndrome

Carpal tunnel syndrome is a neurological disorder that occurs when the median nerve becomes squeezed or pinched at the wrist. The median nerve runs along the palm of your hand up your forearm.

This compression of the median nerve as it passes into the hand can cause a range of symptoms. These include tingling, weakness, and numbness. There are a number of potential causes of this condition, including as a result of playing sports, especially those that require repetitive motion.

Other possible causes include fractures to the wrist, diabetes, and high blood pressure. This condition may be worsened over time if the wrist continues to be repeatedly overextended. Research shows that women are far more likely to have carpal tunnel syndrome than men (about three times as likely).

There are a number of ways in which this condition can be diagnosed. These include a physical examination, tests known as nerve conduction studies, and reviewing of medical and health history.

There are both surgical and non-surgical treatment options when it comes to treating carpal tunnel syndrome. For example, a wrist splint helps to hold the affected hand in a neutral position (particularly at night).

2. Tendinitis

Tendinitis is a condition that affects tendons, which are the thick cords that join muscles to bone. Any tendon in the body can develop this condition, however, it is more common to develop in the wrist, shoulder, elbow, knee, and heel.

There are a number of potential causes of tendinitis, including as a result of a sports injury. Certain diseases (for example, diabetes), aging, and certain antibiotics can also cause tendinitis. In terms of professional athletes, tendinitis is most common among those who play bowling, golf, tennis, or basketball.

The main symptom of this condition is pain, characterized as a dull ache that is concentrated around the affected joint (such as the wrist). The affected area will feel tender and may become more painful when touched. Swelling is another symptom.

If you do experience tendinitis, it is important that you rest and apply ice to the affected area. A diagnosis can be made during a physical exam or through X-rays, MRI scans, and ultrasounds.

There are a number of treatment options for this condition. For severe conditions, surgery to remove the inflammatory tissue may be recommended. Physical therapy, supports such as splints, and corticosteroid injections are other potential treatment options.

The good news is that when tendinitis is treated early, the issue typically resolves itself quickly. However, it may also become a longer-term or chronic problem for some people.

3. Mallet Finger

This injury is also known as “baseball finger“. If you have ever played baseball, you may be able to understand why! Mallet finger refers to an injury to the tendon that straightens the tip of our fingers and thumbs.

There are a number of symptoms of mallet finger. For one, the finger or thumb may “droop” at the tip. Other symptoms include pain, swelling, bruises, and the inability to straighten the finger or thumb. The tendon may also become detached from the finger bone, which is known as an avulsion fracture.

This is a relatively common hand injury, especially among athletes and in particular among baseball players. In baseball, it may occur when a player is attempting to catch a ball, only for the ball to hit their fingertip. Mallet finger is also common in sports such as volleyball, basketball, and football.

Generally, it is possible to diagnose this issue through a physical examination. An X-ray, MRI scan, or ultrasound may help to understand the extent of the injury to the bone and the tendon.

There are a number of potential treatment options for mallet finger. These include splinting, surgery, and specific hand exercises. The recovery time is typically around eight weeks for this injury.

4. Wrist Fracture

A broken wrist is a very common hand injury and one that affects many professional athletes. It commonly occurs while a person is attempting to catch themselves and prevent a fall.

The main symptoms of a wrist fracture include:

  • Severe pain
  • Bruising
  • Swelling
  • Pain that worsens with wrist/hand movement
  • Redness
  • Tenderness

It is important to note that the symptoms of a broken wrist are similar to those of a sprained wrist, though they are different types of injuries. Below, we will take a closer look at sprained wrist injuries.

There are a number of treatment options for a broken wrist, depending on the extent and nature of the injury. These include reduction, immobilization, pain medication, antibiotics, and surgery.

In the case of surgery, it may be necessary to insert pins, screws, pins, or rods into the wrist bones. This helps to hold the wrist bones together and allow them to properly heal.

The recovery time for a broken wrist varies greatly and is dependent on factors such as the person’s age, the severity of the break, and the person’s overall health. It may take up to six months to fully recover from a severe wrist fracture. Undoubtedly, for professional athletes, a broken wrist is one of the most serious types of hand injuries that can occur.

5. De Quervain’s Tenosynovitis

This condition refers to inflammation of the tendons in the thumb. Among professional athletes, it often affects those who play sports such as tennis and golf (given the importance of thumb position while performing).

It takes its somewhat unusual name from Swiss surgeon Fritz de Quervain, the man who identified it in 1895. It is also known as texter’s thumb and gamer’s thumb.

Some of the main symptoms of this condition include swelling and pain at the base of the thumb. These symptoms can then lead to pain when making a fist or when moving the thumb or wrist, tenderness on the side of the wrist, and reduced grip strength. For athletes who hold equipment, such as tennis rackets and golf clubs, this condition can have a major impact on their ability to perform.

Both surgical and non-surgical treatment options exist. For the latter, treatment options here include:

  • Wearing a brace or splint
  • Having corticosteroid injections
  • Avoiding certain activities
  • Taking anti-inflammatory medications (such as ibuprofen)

Surgery may be necessary if non-surgical options are not successful. There are also a number of exercises that help to reduce the symptoms of this condition. These include thumb lifts, thumb flexion, the Finkelstein stretch, and wrist flexion.

6. Finger Fracture

Above, we highlighted wrist fractures. Another type of fracture that can occur during professional sports is a finger fracture. In our fingers, there are three phalanges—these are the bones that make up the fingers. A fracture, or break, occurs when one or more of these phalanges breaks. Fractures may also occur in the knuckles.

Finger fractures are common in a host of different sports, including baseball, football, field hockey, basketball, hockey, lacrosse, snowboarding, and more. For example, a fracture may occur when a fast-moving object (such as a ball) hits a person’s hand. A person’s chances of breaking a finger are increased if they suffer from certain conditions such as osteoporosis.

There are a number of different types of finger fractures, including avulsion fractures, impacted fractures, and shear fractures. In the case of an open fracture, the bone breaks through the skin. This does not occur in a closed fracture.

Some of the common symptoms of a finger fracture include pain, tenderness, swelling, and limited range of motion. Generally, a finger fracture is diagnosed following an X-ray, as well as a physical examination.

There are several treatment options, including surgery, to aid the healing of a finger fracture. Surgery may be necessary if a person suffers multiple fractures or has loose bone fragments.

7. Wrist Sprain

A sprained wrist occurs when the ligaments in the wrist tear or stretch. When we speak of ligaments, we are referring to the bands of tissue that attached bones at a joint.

This type of injury, as with wrist fractures, typically occurs during a fall. In many cases, it is possible to treat a wrist sprain with home exercises and remedies. Some of the main symptoms of a sprained wrist include:

  • Pain
  • Weakness
  • Difficulty moving the wrist
  • Tenderness
  • Swelling
  • Bruising

Common causes of a sprained wrist include if the wrist suddenly twists, bends backward, moves in an abnormal position, or sustains a heavy impact. This type of injury commonly occurs in mountain biking, basketball, skateboarding, gymnastics, and other sports.

There are three categories of wrist sprains: grade 1 (mild), grade 2 (moderate), and grade 3 (severe). Home remedies for mild or moderate wrist sprains include rest, ice, compression, and elevation (RICE).

For a severe sprain, there are a number of surgeries that may be necessary. These include surgical fixation, debridement, and arthroscopic surgery.

8. Thumb Sprains

Another very common, and painful, hand injury that commonly affects professional athletes is the thumb sprain. It occurs when a person injures the ligaments in their thumb that connect the bones in a joint. There are a number of ligaments in the thumb that serve to help a person to make a fist as well as grab objects.

A thumb sprain is considered far less serious than a broken thumb. This is because the ligament hasn’t torn nor has the bone broken. However, it can still be a painful injury that requires treatment and time on the sideline.

Some of the main symptoms of a sprained thumb injury include:

  • Pain
  • Discomfort
  • Stiffness
  • Trouble grabbing objects
  • Swelling
  • Bruising

With a sprained thumb injury, there are both non-surgical and surgical treatment options. Non-pressure options include the RICE method we outlined earlier.

A mild sprain generally takes around six weeks to heal if a person is required to wear a cast or splint. For a more serious injury, such as one that requires surgery, the recovery timeline can stretch to several months. It is important to avoid playing sports during the all-important recovery phase.

Common Hand Injuries for Professional Athletes

The bottom line is that hand injuries are part and parcel of playing professional sports. However, they can have a major impact on a person’s career and future employability. Therefore, when an injury does occur, it is essential that effective treatment is sought.

Your premier treatment choice for common hand injuries is the Hand Surgery Specialists of Texas. Contact us today to schedule an appointment with Houston’s leading hand surgeons. Schedule either an in-office appointment or a virtual/video call. We look forward to speaking with you about effective hand treatment.

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The Hand Surgery Specialists of Texas offers diagnosis and treatment for hand, wrist, and elbow problems in Houston, using the most advanced and minimally invasive medical techniques. Our orthopedic hand specialists and hand and finger surgeons are waiting to provide you with excellent care at one of our hand care centers in River Oaks, Webster, North Houston, Katy/Sugarland, or Baytown

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