Injuries to the hand and wrist are common in athletes because the hands frequently absorb impact during sports activity. Sports-related injuries may involve the supporting ligaments, tendons or bones.
Skiers are susceptible to an injury known as skier’s thumb, a tear of the ulnar collateral ligament in the large joint of the thumb. This can happen when the skier falls and the ski pole handle forces the thumb to bend away from the fingers. The same injury can occur in other sports players whose hands are often used to break a fall.
Treatment for ligament tears
Many common ligament injuries are treated non-surgically, however, a few will require surgery to restore stable ligament function.
If the thumb ligament is completely torn, surgery may be necessary. Sometimes, as the ligament tears, it pulls a bone fragment away from the base of the bone. The fragment may need to be removed or replaced to its correct position. Patients commonly need to wear a short-arm cast or a splint to protect the thumb ligament for a period of time following surgery.
Racquets sports such as tennis, squash, and racquet ball may make patients susceptible to tendonitis of the wrist from repetitive wrist motion. The vast majority of these injuries can be treated with a combination of rest, immobilization, ice, and anti-inflammatories.
Athletes of various sports are also susceptible to tears of a structure called the triangular fibrocartilage complex (TFCC) on the pinky side of the wrist from either a fall on an outstretched wrist or repetitive wrist motion. The TFCC is a shock absorbing wrist stabilizer and tears may cause pain, clicking or instability with forearm rotation. Many of these tears may be treated with immobilization, rest, and, if needed, cortisone shots. Occasionally, for persistently painful or unstable TFCC tears, surgery is recommended. The procedure is usually accomplished arthroscopically through minimally invasive incisions.