What Are Sprains?
We are confronted with muscle sprains every day while at work, performing household chores and even during sports activities. In fact, the moment we try to exert extra pressure on the joints of our body, we are at the same time exposing ourselves to the risk of sprains and ruptures. But what are sprains all about?
Sprains are caused by torn or stretched ligaments while performing a physical movement. In normal conditions, sprains can be caused by falling, twisting of the hands, legs and even getting hurt by an external object. If you have ever played football, you must have experienced painful situations when you got hurt in the knee or lower leg by a fellow player’s kick or by the ball itself.
Such situations cause a sudden and unexpected stretching and tearing of ligaments that can cause immense pain. If you experience sudden pain while playing in the field, or while running in case you are a sprinter, chances are that your muscles have sprained. Such a situation is often characterized by intense pain, bruising, swelling and immobility.
In some cases where the intensity of the sprain is too much, athletes may experience numbness and lack of sensation in their muscles. The muscles do not move much beyond a specific point and give immense pain while trying to move too much. This article highlight some of the common hand and wrist injuries which may experienced by athletes at some point in their sports career.
Injury #1: Ankle Sprains
This is the most common sports-related injuries as the ankle is used excessively in almost all physical activities. Athletes become vulnerable to ankle sprains when they stretch and move their ankles beyond the permissible limit. Most field sports, like football, cricket, hockey and rugby involve excessive usage of the ankles. Therefore, athletes who are playing these type of sports become highly susceptible to ankle sprains and strains.
In many cases, ankle sprains strike athletes surprisingly while they are performing on field. When a football player is charging with the ball, tackling opposition players and moving helter-skelter to affect a goal, he may twist his ankle or apply extra weight that can create a painful ankle sprain. This situation may also arise while running and jumping. If the ankle is sprained excessively, it may leave a loud buzz or a snap that indicates that the situation is really painful and grievous.
Ankle sprains can get difficult to endure and deal with, as they cause severe pain and swelling in the ankle. Very few physical activities are possible without using the ankles, so players get in a fix once they are affected by troublesome ankle sprains. Their training is affected and they cannot compete in competitions and tournaments until their problem is resolved.
There are three grades of ankle sprains that are generally divided according to their intensity. The first grade is classified with a minor stretch and tear of ligaments without causing further damage. The second grade arises due to torn and loose ligaments, whereas the third grade is the most severe one, it signifies a completely torn or loose ligament.
Injury #2: Wrist Sprains
This is another common injury that seems to affect athletes from time to time. It is simply a part-and-parcel of the game, the more you strain yourself, the more vulnerable you are to sprains. Wrist sprains can occur due to a variety of reasons. Players of field sports like football, cricket, volleyball, tennis and hockey are the most vulnerable to wrist sprains.
These sports involve excessive usage of the hands, and thus the wrists are always exposed to injuries. Even though football is more of a foot-oriented sport, players may also hurt their wrists by tackling, falling down or when the ball hits the hand accidentally. On the other hand, hockey, cricket and volleyball cannot be played without utilizing wrists. These three sports expose their players to the most painful wrist pains.
How does a wrist sprain occur? Like ankle sprains, a wrist sprain occurs due to a torn or stretched wrist ligament. This occurs most commonly by falling over the wrist, or twisting it abnormally while playing a sport. For example, a sportsperson can get a wrist sprain in a game of cricket while trying to take a catch or while diving to save a boundary. These actions are almost instantaneous due to their extreme focus on the game and athletes usually do not get much time to reflect on the circumstances, till injury occurs.
Injury #3: Bone Injuries
Besides muscle sprains, athletes are also quite vulnerable to serious bone injuries while playing in the field. This is an extreme condition, as a bone injury can only be inflicted by supreme force on the bones. Bones are the strongest part of the human body and they cannot be easily affected or broken. Therefore, when a bone injury occurs, it signifies that an excessive force was applied on the affected region.
Fractures are the most common type of bone injuries and they affect almost everybody at least once or twice during a lifetime. However, these fractures happen more commonly in sports persons who are engaged in more strenuous physical exercises than common people are.
Children are also very susceptible to bone fractures, as their bones are still in a developing phase and are vulnerable to wear and tear. However, adults face a much graver situation with fractures, as their bones grow brittle and susceptible to permanent breakage. Therefore, bone fractures in adult sports persons should never be taken lightly. In fact, they can be career threatening especially if you are a full-time professional athlete.
Injury #4: Wrist Fractures
Sports persons who play sports like football, cricket and hockey are most likely to expose to the risk of hand and wrist injuries. The high intensity of these sports and the amount of physical labor expected from players make them highly vulnerable to develop dangerous bone fractures. Like wrist sprains, wrist fractures can be inflicted by falling on the wrist, twisting it abnormally and being struck by a forceful object. Wrist fractures are sudden and they create intense pain in the affected region.
Similarly, hand fractures are caused by applying extreme force to joints and ligaments of the hand. This especially happens in the joints that keep the fingers and webbing attached. If you apply a strong force to your hand, its muscles may break and even cause a possible hand fracture. Some fractures are of low intensity, whereas others are of high intensity.
Soft Tissue And Closed Tendon Injuries
Injury #5: ECU Tendonitis
The ECU tendonitis is also known as the ‘extensor carpal ulnaris tendinitis’. It is a common occurring condition in sports where wrists are utilized more than other muscles. For example in sports like basketball, lawn tennis, volleyball, baseball and other sports which involve heavy use of the wrist. The tendonitis affects the tendon located at the backside of your wrist. This condition may arise by moving the wrist muscles awkwardly, applying extreme pressure, abnormal twisting and turning.
Injury #6: DeQuervain’s Syndrome
The deQuervain’s syndrome is a painful condition wherein the tendons of the thumbs and wrists get inflamed by an external force that causes the tendons to snap. The real cause of this syndrome is yet unknown. However, doctors have speculated that it can be caused by arthritis, grasping and trauma on the thumbs and wrists.
This condition occurs more often among women than men. Pain is experienced on the back of the thumb tendons and it can persist for a prolonged time. Swelling is also experienced in some cases where the wrist motion is directly affected by the application of external force.
Injury #7: Baseball Finger
Also called ‘mallet Finger’, baseball finger is a finger deformity that is caused by excessive damage in the extensor tendon. This damage is caused by an external force such as a ball or a heavy object. Baseball finger usually affects sports persons who play ball sports like football, cricket and hockey. When the ball hits the thumb at a high pace, it is likely to break and dislocate the extensor tendon. If the force exerted by the ball is excessively high, it may even damage the finger bone. Once damaged, the finger cannot be straightened easily.
Injury #8: Jersey Finger
Jersey finger is another common sports-related injury that affects the flexor tendons. This injury was named after the jersey-pulling act of American football players. When a player tries to grab the jersey of another player in motion, he exposes his tendons to a risk of breakage.
This condition is characterized by swelling and mild pain in the fingers, and it may result in a finger fracture. If the flexor tendon gets located, it can only be reattached by a surgery. However, this happens only in rare cases when the finger damage is extraordinary.
Injury #9: Boutonnière Deformity
The boutonnière deformity is a rare condition in which the middle joint of the finger is unable to straighten normally. The finger is jammed because of a powerful blow and the extensor tendon is damaged. This deformity is generally caused by a powerful blow on the finger’s middle joint. After the flow, the fingertip does not bend and the middle joint cannot be straightened properly.
How To Prevent Sports-Related Hand And Wrist Injuries
As discussed in the aforementioned topics, sports persons are highly vulnerable to a number of hand and wrist related injuries. Therefore, it becomes important to take necessary steps to prevent them from occurring frequently. It comes even more important when athletes do not take active steps to treat their injuries, thinking of them as unimportant. Even a minuscule injury should not be ignored, as it may develop into a bothersome monstrosity.
Here are a few methods that should be followed to prevent hand and wrist injuries:
Wear protective gear
Many sports-related injuries occur because of players negligence and lack of dependability on protective gear. For example, if you are a hockey player, you should always wear wristbands to protect your wrists from potential damages while striking the ball and while tackling a player. Similarly, sportsmen who utilize their wrists a lot often should wear protective wristbands and wrist guards to avoid injuries.
Adopt proper technique of playing
Oftentimes, athletes are affected with serious injuries on and off field due to improper training techniques. Whether you are a cricketer or a tennis player, your technique is what defines your game and also protects you from injuries. Following an improper technique, like holding a bat or a racquet with a wrong grip, can inflict injuries to your wrists and hands. This is especially true for batsmen in cricket, who have a maximum use of wrists and hands for playing their shots. Holding the bat improperly can cause injuries, like a tendon breakage or loosening.
The importance of warm-ups in sports cannot be overstated enough. Warming up is not only necessary for optimal performance. It is also important to maintain the flexibility of your wrists and hands so that you may not be injured while playing.
Sports trainers follow rigorous and specific exercise regimes for injury prevention in wrists and hands. These exercises should be taken seriously and practiced on a regular basis.
Follow a nutritious, calcium-rich diet to strengthen your bones and muscles. Mike products like cheese and yogurt should be consumed, along with green and leafy vegetables.