When is a wrist sprain more than a simple sprain? If you followed the Yankees during the pre-season, you may have asked yourself the same thing. When Mark Teixera injured his wrist while swinging a bat, the initial diagnosis was that of a simple sprain. Soon after, however, it was revealed that the star first baseman’s injury was a torn tendon sheath, an injury that put him on the disable list for an unplanned couple of months. He has still not yet returned to Yankee Stadium.
It goes to show that even at the highest level, wrist injuries can be, well, complicated. So what sowed such confusion? Sprains themselves refer to ligament injuries, but it’s often hard to tell at first glance whether a wrist injury requires a little TLC versus professional intervention.
That’s because most wrist injuries, whether simple or complicated, are going to involve a little swelling and stiffness. But when wrist injuries don’t get better after two or three weeks, it’s usually a sign that the injury may be worse than a mild sprain. These nagging injuries shouldn’t be taken lightly either. Persistent pain, clicking in the wrist, or excessive swelling, are red flags that could indicate either a torn ligament, or even a broken bone, both of which require immediate treatment.
The wrist’s anatomy lends itself to a range of injuries, depending on the forces at work. The most common side for sprains to pop up is on the dorsal, or back, side of the wrist. The ligaments along the outside of the wrist, just below the small finger, are also frequent sites of sprains.
So how do you go about healing yourself when your sprain is just a mild simple sprain? Rest, ice, splinting, and anti-inflammatory medicine are the simplest and most effective treatments of minor to moderate wrist sprains. Over the counter wrist splints may not always match a three-piece suit, but it’s worth sporting a simple brace that stabilizes the wrist and gives it the support it needs to properly heal.
A simple regimen of the aforementioned ice and rest routine should lead to a complete recovery in two to four weeks, in most mild sprains. If the pain or swelling persists after three weeks or longer, then you should make an appointment to see your local orthopedist for further assessment.
Imaging is one of a doctor’s most powerful tools in making a diagnosis about wrist injuries, but individuals should also take note of how the injury happened. Tennis players, golfers, and baseball players are prone to the type of twisting injuries seen in Teixera’s wrist. The forceful rotating motion of swinging a tennis racket or baseball bat may injure the ligaments of the wrist, as opposed to direct traumatic injuries such as a fall to the outstretched hand, where it’s more likely for a fracture to result. Significant ruptured ligaments may require surgery. Some ligament ruptures can be directly repaired, while others require more complex procedures involving grafts and screws.
The reality is that any injury is never going to be as straightforward as you think, and as we get back on the courts or on the baseball diamonds this spring, a number of us are going to feel that all-too-familiar twinge somewhere in our wrist. The important thing to remember is to never underestimate a wrist injury. And even when it’s worse than you think, the pros at Manhattan Orthopedic will always have you covered.