It is our natural instinct to brace ourselves when we fall and often times our wrists pay the price. However, wrist injuries also occur in many sports such as football, basketball, baseball, gymnastics, diving, skiing, and ice skating.
Most often wrist sprains are caused by a fall on an outstretched arm. The wrist is forced back into hyperextension, stretching or tearing the soft tissue in the area including the ligaments. The ligaments of the wrist are responsible for maintaining a stabile hand position and help allow for controlled motions of the wrist and hand.
The most common signs and symptoms of a wrist sprain are pain or tenderness around the wrist, swelling, bruising and weakness. Sometimes, burning/tingling into the hand or a popping sensation in the wrist may occur.
Wrist sprains should be treated immediately with ice and rest. Ice is recommended for the first couple of days following injury to relieve pain and inflammation, and should be used for 15 to 20 minutes every 2 to 3 hours. Do not apply chemical ice packs directly against the skin as they may cause frostbite.
An ace/compression wrap can help to alleviate pain by providing light pressure and reducing swelling in the area. It is important to begin the wrap at the base of the fingers and work up the hand to approximately mid-forearm. The wrap should be snug but comfortable and will help minimize movement at the wrist. Any increase in pain, tingling or coldness of the fingers is a sign the wrap may be too tight. Elevating the wrist above the level of the heart will also help to reduce swelling.
Your physician may order x-rays to rule out a fracture. In this case, a wrist splint or a cast may be applied to immobilize the joint to allow proper healing. In some rare cases surgery may be needed if a ligament is torn.
A wrist sprain usually occurs during an accidental fall and cannot fully be prevented. However, in sports such as rollerblading, skate boarding, ice skating, gymnastics or even skiing, a wrist guard can be worn to protect the wrist in case of a fall.
It is important to maintain a safe playing environment to prevent wrist injuries. All playing fields should be checked prior to any practice or game for unnecessary equipment, large holes or ruts, sharp or hard objects, and wet or icy surfaces. Being aware of your surroundings may help to prevent falls as well.
If there is an obvious deformity, persistent loss of sensation or numbness or tingling to the hand, wrist, or forearm consult a physician immediately. It is important to consult your physician if your pain lasts more than two weeks or worsens. This may be a sign of a more severe injury.