The metacarpal is the name given to any of five bones in the hand. For athletes, a common hand injury is a metacarpal fracture or broken hand. Hand injuries occur for various reasons.
Common Causes of Hand Fractures in Athletes
One way in which athletes injure their hands in sports is through direct force. This sort of trauma is seen commonly in sports like football. A slash across the hand in a sport like ice hockey could also cause a metacarpal fracture.
Another name for metacarpal fracture is “boxer’s fracture,” perhaps because it is also possible to fracture a metacarpal by using punching force in a sport like boxing or engaging in punching activities outside of a sport. However, “boxer’s fracture” is actually not a good name for the injury since most boxers are trained to punch using certain precautionary techniques. Thus, boxers rarely sustain metacarpal fractures.
Treatment and Healing
Most metacarpal fractures have a short recovery time. Most of these fractures heal in a cast or brace in about 6-8 weeks. After the bone has healed, most people can resume normal daily activities, though they may notice less visibility in the knuckle of the injured finger.
In rare cases of metacarpal fractures, the hand is too severely angulated or deformed to heal using a splint or cast. There is some disagreement among doctors about how severe the deformity must be in order to call for alternate treatment methods. In cases where a splint or cast won’t work, the patient may need to undergo surgery or a reduction to realign the bones.
Alternative Treatment for Extreme Cases
In some cases when patients have their bones realigned during surgery, the bones keep falling out of place. When this happens, the physician may need to use pins or wires to hold the bones in place. These pins can generally be removed in a clinic after about 6 weeks, and this means the patient may have to sit out of sports for approximately 8-10 weeks.