Wrist sprains injury to the ligaments of the wrist. Such sprains are a common occurrence when the hand is extended to break a fall. Ligaments are necessary for stabilisation of the hand and control of motion. Wrist sprains vary from moderate to severe, with the latter involving complete tearing of the ligaments and instability of the associated joint. The injury is common in athletes engaged in football, basketball, skiing, snowboarding, roller blading and a variety of other sports in which the hands are vulnerable.
The eight carpal bones of the wrist are connected via complex ligaments – fibrous bands of connective tissue. Ligaments also connect the bones of the wrist with the radius and ulna and the metacarpal bones of the hand. The smooth coordination of these bones required for fine hand movement is impaired when one or more ligaments are injured.
Cause of injury
Engaging in sports where falls are common: in-line skating, snowboarding, cycling, soccer, football, baseball and volleyball. Lack of protective equipment, including wrist guards. Muscle weakness or atrophy.
Signs and symptoms
Pain with movement of the wrist. Burning or tingling feeling at the wrist. Bruising or discolouration of the skin.
Complications if left unattended
Moderate to severe wrist sprains left untreated can lead to ongoing deficit of movement and strength in the wrist as well as developing arthritis at the region of the injury.
RICER regimen immediately following injury. Immobilization of injured wrist to restrict movement.
Rehabilitation and prevention
Flexibility and range of motion exercises may be encouraged by a physical therapist, following initial recovery of the ligament. Should the ligament be torn completely, or if fracture accompanies the sprain, surgery may be required. Use of protective guards for wrists and concentration on balance during sport may help to avoid this injury.
Most wrist sprains undergo full recovery given proper initial care and necessary healing time.