A wrist sprain is a common injury for all types of athletes. One wrong move or a simple loss of balance and you might find yourself falling toward the ground with your arms outstretched in front of you. It’s an automatic impulse to use your hands to catch your fall; however, once your hands hit the ground, sometimes the force of the impact bends it back towards your forearm. Just like that, you can cause tiny tears in your wrist, or worse a complete break to the ligament.
Wrist sprains are most common in athletes that participate in: basketball, baseball, gymnastics, diving, skiing, skating, skate boarding and inline skating.
According to OrthoIndy hand/upper extremity and sports medicine specialist, Dr. Timothy Dicke, a wrist sprain is an injury to the ligaments that support or hold the wrist joint together. A sprain can be a partial tear or complete tear of ligaments depending on the severity of the injury.
Symptoms of a wrist sprain include pain, swelling, stiffness and sometimes bruising after an injury.
“The most common cause of a wrist sprain in sports or other activities is a fall onto an outstretched hand where the weight of the body injures the ligaments by overload,” said Dr. Dicke. “However, wrist sprains can also occur by forceful bending or direct impact.”
Wrist sprains are diagnosed by physical examination. X-rays are also important to look for signs of bone injury, such as a fracture, and can also give indication of a more severe sprain if there is any separation of the wrist bones. Sometimes an MRI scan is useful to test if a ligament or soft tissue tear is suspected.
“A simple wrist sprain may be treated with ice, rest and splinting,” said Dr. Dicke. “A more serious sprain, such as one with tearing of the ligaments, cartilage or bone dislocation, can require surgery to obtain the best outcome.”
Recovery from a wrist sprain can be slow and may require physical therapy, in addition to precautions such as protective splinting or taping to prevent re-injury. Some sprains will prevent an athlete from returning
to his or her sport for an entire season or longer, especially those that require surgery and months of rehabilitation.
According to Dr. Dicke, “Overall, wrist sprains have a reputation of prolonged symptoms which can include lingering pain, stiffness and weakness which can cause some impairment of function.”
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