Gym and fitness injuries in the hand and wrist are often misdiagnosed and undertreated for a variety of reasons. Chronic and overuse injuries often go untreated due to the athlete’s reluctance to seek medical attention. This is because in many sports, the athlete can compensate with some of these injuries while this may be more difficult in weight bearing joints such as the knee and ankle. However, a more preventable issue may be the inaccurate diagnoses and inadequate treatment often afforded the hand and upper extremity in athletes. This is particularly true in weightlifters, Cross fit athletes and bodybuilders since these athletes often rely upon allied health professionals such as chiropractic physicians, physical therapists and athletic trainers to make the diagnosis and recommend treatment. This is where the physician and ancillary health specialist can improve their management of these challenging and often obscure injuries.
The common injuries in the hand and wrist
In many instances, the hand surgeon should be involved at an early stage of treatment and to ensure an accurate diagnosis. The common injuries in the hand and wrist are often sports specific and often aptly named. For example, jersey finger is an avulsion of the flexor profundus tendon that occurs when the athlete grabs the opponents jersey as they pull away. In rare cases, this can be seen in doing excessively heavy wrist curls where a great stress is placed on the insertion of the tendon on the distal phalanx at the tip of the finger. This leads to a sudden and resisted hyperextension force that avulses the tendon at its insertion site. A strong surgical repair is necessary followed by appropriate therapy to maximize the passive range of motion and later the active flexion. Subsequent strengthening is of obvious particular importance in the competitive athlete and weightlifter.
Blunt injuries can occur to the extensor mechanism as well and the wide range of complex joints in the hand and wrist. Much more common, however, is the chronic and overuse injury in the weightlifter. Repetitive heavy strain on a muscle/tendon unit can lead to microtears in this tissue and lead to the common entity known as tendonitis. This is a very general term and it is important to understand the specifics and severity of the particular lesion. Injuries as common as tennis/golf elbow, wrist tendonitis and rotator cuff strain must be evaluated by a specialist so that the more severe injury can be recognized early and treatment instituted by appropriate health care professional. At that point, the therapist, chiropractor or athletic trainer may be the most apt person to bring the fitness enthusiast back to full gym readiness !! Dr. Alejandro Badia, Hand & Wrist Surgeon Miami, Florida.