A fall while running. A jammed finger during a basketball game. A sore thumb following a ski trip. Catching a fly ball wrong during a baseball game. These hand injuries are common with athletes because the hands often engage in frequent impact during sports activity.
According to Dr. Jeffery Whitaker, OrthoIndy hand/upper extremity specialist, sports-related hand injuries can range from minor to serious, such as a fracture or dislocation of the wrist or finger joint.
Injuries like these may not seem serious at first, but left untreated can take athletes out of their sport for months, and even have a permanent effect on function.
“The most common hand injuries I see are mallet fingers, fractures and strains, and tendon and ligament injuries,” said Dr. Whitaker. “Symptoms include pain, swelling and loss of function of the affected part.”
Dr. Whitaker added that athletes often fail to seek proper treatment and evaluation after a hand injury because it is still possible to use the injured hand. Eventually an athlete will notice that it is not getting better; however, it is often too late for an optimal healing outcome after treatment.
A physician examination for a hand injury begins with the patient explaining how the injury occurred. Next, a sports medicine physician will exam the injured hand to pinpoint the injured area. Sometimes an X-ray is needed and occasionally an MRI.
Treatment for hand injuries ranges from splints or casting to surgery depending on the type of injury and severity. “Usually, an athlete is able to return to their sport after a hand injury in six to eight weeks. It can be longer depending on the severity of the injury,” said Dr. Whitaker.
Dr. Whitaker recommends using proper technique when playing sports to minimize hand injuries. “Good flexibility, protective gear and taping or padding at-risk joints can also help reduce hand injuries. For older patients getting balance first before rushing to do something is also vital to preventing hand injuries,” said Dr. Whitaker.
To schedule an appointment with Dr. Whitaker please call 317.884.5168.