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Watch out for a FOOSH! Don’t let a broken wrist or ganglion cyst give you the winter blues

Being active in the winter is good for our mental and physical health, but don’t let bad luck sideline you with a fractured hand or broken wrist. These injuries are extremely common, especially in winter months when skiing, snowboarding or slipping on ice, can quickly lead to a Fall onto an outstretched hand – also known as “FOOSH” among orthopedic experts.

FOOSH tends to break the larger bone in your forearm, called the radius, which is also the bone most often broken in the arm. The end of the radius, closest to the hand, is known as the distal end, and not surprisingly, the most common cause of a distal radius fracture is a FOOSH.

When sustaining the weight of a fall, the wrist can fracture in many ways, and the break may extend into the wrist joint or be limited to the arm bone only.

Immediate signs of a wrist fracture include swelling, bruising, pain to the touch and visual deformity. The presence of numbness or difficulty moving fingers are also signs to seek immediate treatment. Time counts; delays can impair healing and limit future strength and range of motion.

Treatment options for a broken wrist are determined by the location of the break and its severity. Generally, joint immobilization (splinting or casting) and surgery are used to restore mobility, and physical therapy is employed to aid the recovery process and rebuild strength. If the fracture has interrupted blood flow to a wrist bone, a portion of the bone may die. In these cases, bone grafts and bone fusion may be used to aid healing.

Another very common cause of hand or wrist pain that spans the seasons is ganglion cysts.

If you have a lump in your hand or wrist, chances are it’s a ganglion cyst. These common and treatable fluid-filled sacs often appear on hand and wrist tendons or joints. Ganglion cysts are identified with medical assessment and most are easily treatable.

The cyst itself is generally painless, but the location of a ganglion cyst may impede hand or wrist movement or compress a corresponding nerve – which triggers pain on that nerve.

While these sacs can grow in a variety of joints on the bottom or the top of the wrist, they are most common on the top of the wrist. The size of the sac tends to grow with use and recede with inactivity.

Although ganglion cysts can present in a variety of patients, they are more prominent in females younger than 40 and in those who have high incidence or impact of wrist use. Cysts that develop on the finger (mucous cysts) tend to be associated with older patients and those with arthritis.

Ganglion cysts often clear on their own; however, some cysts require draining (aspiration) or removal (excision). During evaluation, an orthopedic specialist typically will assess the origin of the sac, its fluctuations in size, level of discomfort, and impact on mobility. The exam will reveal if the mass is fluid or a solid mass and identify if rest, draining, or removal offers the best outcome. They will also look at the patients’ history of arthritis and review current medications.

Aspiration offers relief from pain and addresses the visible appearance. But that relief may be temporary because, while the draining removes the fluid which comprises the cyst’s mass, the root sac remains. Excision (removal of the cyst) addresses this issue. Most patients find this outpatient procedure to be fairly simple and highly beneficial, and most can resume normal activities within two to six weeks. Physical therapy is frequently a part of successful recovery.

Wrist injuries and wrist pain don’t have to add to your winter blues, see a CCOE hand and wrist specialist to diagnose and treat your pain so you can get back to what you love. Schedule today.

Preventing Sports Injuries of the Hand

There is always a risk of injury when playing sports. Twisted ankles, torn ACLs, stress fractures. But rarely does a sportsman consider an injury of the hand. Until it happens to them! Let’s take a look at some common sports injuries of the hand and what you can do to prevent them from ruining your game.

Common Sports Injuries of the Hand

·      Hand and Wrist fractures (or broken bones) occur when too much pressure is put on bones from overuse, falling, or smashing into something.

·      Skier’s thumb – This is an acute injury to the ligament that sits at the base of the thumb. When the thumb is significantly and suddenly bent backwards, this ligament can tear, causing a lot of pain and weakness in the thumb.

·      Jamming fingers happens when the fingers experience blunt force or hard impact. Some symptoms include pain, swelling, reduced range of motion, and tenderness in the finger.

·      Nerve damage. Certain activities can result in nerve damage due to pressure and vibration shooting through the hands. One example is handlebar palsy, an injury that occurs from prolonged compression of the nerves in the wrist coupled with vibrations.

·      Tendonitis happens when a tendon becomes inflamed. Tendonitis in the hand generally is a result of overuse. Symptoms include pain, inflammation, and swelling in the hand.

·      Cuts and lacerations. Depending on the sport, you can expect cuts, lacerations, as well as scrapes and blackened fingernails.

·      Blisters and calluses. Blisters can happen when the skin chafes against a foreign surface, causing the skin to fill with liquid and eventually break or scrape away. Calluses occur when the skin becomes thick and hardens due to friction occurring over a period of time. While blisters are usually unwelcome, many athletes pursue calluses to make their hands less prone to blister.

Preventing Sports Injuries of the Hand

Preventing sports injuries of your hands often is a result of applying common sense and sensibilities. Other times, hand injuries are nearly inevitable due simply by the nature of the sport. Either way, here are some ways to prevent your hands from getting injured.

·      Following the Rules means playing sports safely. While certain rules seem like a hindrance, remember they are put in place to prevent injury.  Be sure to follow the rules of the sport, including positioning your hands correctly when playing to ensure you don’t injure them.

·      Wear Protective Gear – Wearing the right equipment can help reduce the risk of injury to your hands. If necessary, wrapping may prevent certain injuries from occurring, especially in sports that require close contact with equipment or surfaces, such as gymnastics, climbing and boxing. Other hand protection may prevent vibrations from damaging nerves. Plus, gloves keep hands warm, preventing frostbite and ensuring the hands stay nimble.

·      Inspect Your Equipment. Never play with broken or damaged equipment. Always check your equipment for splinters, shards, missing or damaged grips and proper padding. Make sure the equipment you are using fits properly, or is appropriate for your size, weight, game and ability. 

·      Stretch and Strengthen Hands –Stretching and warm ups of the hands ensures flexibility so there is less chance of injury while playing. Strengthening hands ensures you are less prone to injury, as well as have a better grip on equipment.

·      Avoid Repetitive Motions – Many sports involve repetitive motions that can lead to overuse injury. Be sure to change things up when practicing and playing so you don’t use the same motions over and over again. This will not only make you a versatile player but also protect you from injuries.

·      Rest is crucial for healing and relaxing the body. If you play a sport that requires you to use your hands intensely, be sure to let your hands rest in between games and practices. This will help reduce wear and tear injuries as well as stress injuries.

Don’t let a sports injury sideline you from doing the activities you love. The Colorado Center of Orthopaedic Excellence in Colorado Springs provides comprehensive orthopedic care to athletes at all levels and can help you prevent new injuries If you have suffered a sports related injury in your hand or anywhere else, call 719-623-1050 today to make an appointment. You can also request an appointment online.