Ball sports like basketball, rugby, handball and soccer have garnered worldwide recognition and fame. At least a billion people in the world play one of those sports. Balls sports require balance, stamina, foot and hand coordination. Oftentimes these ball games are classified as contact sports, meaning athlete’s injuries are almost always expected. Within these afflictions, hand and wrist injuries are among the most common. The following hand and wrist injuries associated with ball sports are presented in terms of their cause, symptoms, mode of prevention, and treatment:
This injury usually happens when the basketball, rugby, or handball athlete falls on the ground with an outstretched and laterally displaced thumb. Athletes may consequently feel pain, swelling and instability on the affected thumb. Proper hand stretching and hand strengthening exercises before the sporting event may prevent injuries like this. Splinting or casting the hand may immobilize the affected digit for a few weeks until it heals. Oral pain relievers may reduce the discomfort of the injured hand. In severe sprains with thumb dislocation, surgeon may need to intervene to investigate any hidden fractures or reduce the dislocated thumb and prevent serious complications.
A mallet finger is a deformity caused when the extensor tendon of the distal finger joint is damaged. This deformity is fairly common in basketball athletes who hit the tip of their fingers on a hard surface like the floor or the surface of a speeding ball. The finger that sustains the injury is usually painful, bruised and swollen. The fingertip will usually droop downward like a “mallet”; thus, it is coined as mallet finger or baseball finger. Adequate pre-game finger stretching and support plasters may prevent the injury during the actual sport. The acutely injured finger joint is usually immersed in ice packs to reduce inflammation and pain. The affected hand should be elevated above the level of the heart upon resting to reduce swelling and edema. Bleeding below the fingernails or bleeding anywhere in the finger may be a sign of a nail bed laceration or open compound fractures which need immediate medical attention. Surgeons may apply an aluminum splint at the extensor surface for eight weeks until the finger heals. Surgical repair is usually indicated when there are signs of large fracture fragments or joint malalignment. Reconstructive surgery for the hand may require pins, screws and wires to re-align the injured finger. Surgery is usually warranted when medical treatment fails and when patients are children carrying a high risk of a lifetime finger deformity.
This results from a forceful finger injury finger caused by high velocity objects like a soccer ball, basketball or handball. This injures the tendon that straightens the fingers making it impossible for the injured athlete to straighten his fingers; thereby, compromising its normal functions. Acute injury will cause a sharp pain in the fingers, giving rise to the characteristic deformity, which may latently develop within 3 weeks from injury. Non-surgical approaches like supportive splinting may be used and prescribed exercises by your hand therapist may be recommended to allay the deformity. Surgical intervention may be necessary when the deformity results to osteoarthritis, when the tendon is completely severed, when a bony fragment is displaced, and or the conditions does not improve with splinting or any conservative means.
Carpal Bone Fractures
This refers to any broken carpal bone of the hand. This happens during accidental falls where the soccer, basketball or rugby player supports his whole weight with the outstretched arm and transfers the force of the impact on the carpal bones, causing the evident fracture or micro-fractures of at least one carpal bone. These fractures will initially be visible with the swelling of the hand or wrist, with pain during mobility. Patients are usually given non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) to relieve the discomfort. Splints and casts are indicated to afford temporary immobility of the hand. Surgical procedures like closed and open reduction of the carpal bones may be performed by the hand surgeon to ensure the proper alignment of the bones until it’s healed.
This kind of wrist injury is common in all ball sports. This is brought about when the player falls on his side with an outstretched hand and buffers his fall on the hard court or ground with his wrists. The full impact on the wrist musculature and tendons may cause swelling or sprain. This presents as pain, swelling, and difficulty in grasping objects with fingers. Athletes must practice proper falling techniques and supportive rolling to break their falls. Wrist and hand strengthening exercises are also available to ensure the stability of the joint. Wrist bands and wrist guards may also reduce the incidence of spraining. Acute sprain may be treated with ice, rest, compress and elevation of the affected limb to reduce swelling and pain. Pain relievers may help with the swelling and analgesia. More severe wrist sprains in which the ligament is snapped require surgery to repair. Severe swelling of the deeper tissues may cause compression problems with the median nerve of the hand leading to peripheral neuropathies. Surgeons may need to release the flexor retinaculum of the hand to relieve the nerve compression and prevent untoward hand complications that may arise.
Also known as a distal radius fracture, this is the fracture of the radius bone near the wrists. This is a common soccer or basketball injury where the athlete falls from an outbalanced position and supports his weight with an outstretched arm at an acute angle on the hard surface. This position will direct the strain to the long bone of the arm causing a greenstick fracture at the end of the hand. Deformity of the fracture is very obvious after the accident and a severe pain may ensue after the injury. A substantial amount of warm-up exercises before each game may prevent this type of mishaps in the field or in the hard court. The affected limb should immediately be immobilized by splinting. Cold compress may be applied initially to relieve the swelling. Oral analgesics like naproxen sodium may soothe the excruciating pain. Surgeons may cast the limb to immobilize it during the entirety of the healing period. For complex fractures involving more than one bone or unstable fractures, hand surgeons may resort to internal fixation with metal screws and bolts to stabilize the fracture until it heals.