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  • Writer's pictureHannah Foster-Middleton


Often, hand and wrist injuries can be the result of repetitive motion, such as regular keyboard use. Athletes can also experience these conditions, which can have a domino effect from the sports field into their daily lives.

Roughly one-quarter of all sports injuries involve the hand or wrist. If caught early, an athlete can heal properly and return to doing what they love. Yet, ignoring the pain affects more than just gameplay. It can make seemingly mundane tasks we all take for granted a significant challenge.

Whether you attend practice during the week, play professionally, or are strictly a weekend warrior, here’s what you should know about hand and wrist injuries for athletes.

Types of Athletic-Related Hand and Wrist Injuries

Athletic hand and wrist injuries can stem from the same sources as other conditions: close contact between players and equipment, which increases with a lack of protection, or repetitive motions.

These conditions are divided into two general groups: Traumatic or acute injuries and chronic or overuse injuries.


Sports with a greater level of contact, including football, hockey, and wrestling, have a higher incidence of traumatic hand and wrist injuries. This encompasses muscle strains, dislocation, ligament tears, tendonitis, fractures, and broken bones, with the fingers being commonly affected.


Those who play sports like golf, basketball, or tennis are more likely to experience an overuse injury, such as dislocation, tender inflammation, a stress fracture, or nerve injury. If the condition is not tended to, an athlete may find their performance declines, and surgery may be required.

Types of Sports-Related Hand and Wrist Injuries

Beyond these two categories, athletes may experience the following hand and wrist injuries:

·         Jammed Finger: The end of the finger is hit directly while extended, resulting in pain, swelling, and inability to bend the joint.

·         Trigger Finger: With this condition, the finger seems stuck in place, due to inflammation along the tendon.

·         Scaphoid Fracture: A player falls onto a hand, placing more weight on the palm and over-extending the wrist. This results in breaking one of the smaller bones within the wrist, often with sharp pain below the thumb and increased movement in this area.

·         Thumb Injury: Occasionally called a “skier’s thumb”, the finger is bent backward, resulting in a torn ligament, inability to hold or grab objects and shortened range of motion in the joint.

·         Wrist Ligament Tear: Both an overuse and traumatic injury, this condition occurs when the ligament or cartilage experiences a tear, usually resulting from a fall causing the joint to twist or from repetitive stress.

·         Tendonitis: This condition refers to inflammation of the tendon along the forearm to the wrist and thumbs and directly results from sports-related repetitive motion.

·         Joint Dislocation: The fingers often experience this condition. In minor instances, a doctor will reset the joint and require the player to use a splint. In more extreme cases, surgery is needed to correct the condition.

·         Stress Fractures: Repetitive motion is behind this injury, although the symptoms may seem similar to a broken bone. Players should rest until the injury fully heals.

·         Arthritis: This overuse condition emerges after years of wear and tear on the joints or can result from an athletic injury that never properly healed.

·         Carpal Tunnel: This overuse injury, which may further be affected by everyday actions like typing, is characterized by numbness and pain that starts in the hand and wrist and migrates up the arm.

·         Fractures: Players have a higher likelihood of experiencing a fracture if they engage in an impact sport. Because the bones in this area are smaller, treatment may be more complex than for other areas of the body.

Precautions and Treatment

To reduce hand and wrist injuries, athletes can wear correctly fitting wrist guards, protective gloves, or sports tape and make sure they properly stretch, take breaks, and rest between practices. Posture and form extend to hand and wrist injuries, and players are encouraged to watch their technique to avoid both overuse and trauma-related conditions.

Should an injury occur, treatment usually starts with rest, ice, compression, and elevation (RICE), and using anti-inflammatory medication.

 Yet, you’re encouraged to seek medical attention for:

·         Pain, bleeding, or swelling that doesn’t go away

·         Stiffness

·         Abnormal bending or twisting of the finger or hand

·         A clicking or grating noise from the joint


Recovery can vary depending on the injury. Conditions like ligament tears may require surgery, a splint, or physiotherapy to address stiffness and improve the joint’s range of motion. 


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