Wrist fractures in the athlete: Distal radius and carpal fractures

M. E. Rettig, G. L. Dassa, K. B. Raskin, C. P. Melone

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

25 Scopus citations


The primary prerequisites for optimal management of the athlete's fractured wrist are prompt diagnosis, anatomic and stable reduction, effective immobilization until healing is thorough, and comprehensive rehabilitation of the injured parts. Fulfillment of these fundamental criteria consistently leads to a highly favorable outcome with minimal risk of re-injury. In contrast, a compromise of these principles, especially for the sake of a speedy return to sports, invariably results in suboptimal recovery and, not infrequently, a permanent loss of skills. The exceptions to the cardinal rule that successful treatment of wrist fractures requires precise restoration of anatomic relationships are specific: displaced hamate hook fractures, displaced trapezial ridge fractures, and comminuted pisiform fractures. In such instances, successful union essentially is precluded, and early excision of the displaced fragments is the logical means of facilitating an uncomplicated recovery. For the more complex fractures requiring stabilization, continual refinements in methods of fixation are considerably diminishing fracture morbidity. The availability of small screws that provide rigid fixation of the carpus is, with increasing consistency, promoting accelerated union and rapid rehabilitation. Well-conceived combinations of low-profile, mechanically efficient external fixators and precisely used Kirschner wires achieve highly secure fracture stability for the distal radius that similarly enhances recovery with a minimum of complications. Improvements in both design and application of internal and external fixation techniques undoubtedly constitute a major advance in the management of wrist fractures among athletes. For some athletes, the return to competition can be safely expedited by the use of custom-fit protective gloves, splints, or casts. For most, however, the treatment regimen usually entails a minimum of 3 to 4 months. Although the healing and rehabilitation process is often lengthy and may seem costly, particularly in terms of time lost from competition, seldom do athletes regret the investment once they return to their highly skillful activities unencumbered by wrist impairment. Never does the sports medicine physician regret compliance with the principles of optimal care.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)469-489
Number of pages21
JournalClinics in Sports Medicine
Issue number3
StatePublished - 1998


Dive into the research topics of 'Wrist fractures in the athlete: Distal radius and carpal fractures'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this