Leading an active lifestyle is essential. Unfortunately, injuries in active people are common. When they affect your hand or wrist, they have a significant impact on your ability to stay active — for example, you can't swing a tennis racquet or play golf.
To keep you active, our extensive team of sports medicine specialists here at The Woodlands Sports Medicine Centre wants to take a look at the three types of wrist injuries you should be aware of and how to protect yourself.
1. Wrist sprains
Like other active joints in your body, such as your ankles, your wrists rely on connective ligaments that connect bone to bone.
Your wrist contains many ligaments, but the two responsible for most of the support in the joint are your ulnocarpal and radioulnar ligaments.
If you stretch one of these ligaments too far, you can develop a mild to severe sprain. With a mild sprain, the ligament is stretched, but not torn. With a moderate to severe sprain, the connective tissues are torn, sometimes completely from the bone.
In a majority of cases, wrist sprains occur due to falls and using your hand to brace the fall. If you engage in an activity or sport where falling is common, you may want to consider wearing a wrist brace or guard to help support your ligaments.
2. Wrist fractures
Your wrist contains 10 bones — eight small carpal bones that connect to the two long bones in your forearm — your radius and ulna. In most cases, a wrist fracture involves your radius and is called a distal radius fracture due to its location in your wrist and not in your forearm.
Like wrist sprains, wrist fractures mainly occur due to falling, though bones in the joint can also be broken due to impact. For example, if you play a sport with a small, hard ball, such as baseball, and it hits you in the wrist, the impact can break the bones.
To protect your wrist from fractures, pad the area if you're worried about impact, or wear wrist guards or braces if you’re concerned about falls.
3. Repetitive use injuries
While sprains and fractures are due to trauma, a third common wrist problem involves repetition or overuse stresses. In general, there are two types of repetitive use injuries impacting your wrists:
- Tendonitis — damage and inflammation in a tendon
- Carpal tunnel syndrome — nerve entrapment in your carpal tunnel
These injuries often develop because of stressing your wrist repetitively, such as swinging a racket or club or throwing a ball over and over. We also see these types of repetitive use injuries in adaptive athletes who are using wheelchairs.
You can also stress these tissues during something like yoga, where you use your wrists a great deal.
Interestingly, repetitive use injuries are more common in women. For example, wrist tendonitis occurs in 0.5% of men and 1.3% of women.
The best way to prevent a repetitive use injury is to ensure the muscles that support your wrists are strong. And, at the first signs of discomfort, you should immediately rest and allow time for the soft tissues to heal. If you continue to engage in your active lifestyle when you have a repetitive use injury in your wrist, the discomfort will only worsen.
If you have more questions about how to protect your wrists and your active lifestyle, please contact our office in The Woodlands, Texas, to schedule a consultation with one of our sports medicine experts.