Metacarpals are the long bones in the hand at the bases of each finger. Injuries to these bones in sports are not very common. A metacarpal fracture can occur with direct trauma, such as punching an object, a hard object hitting the athlete in the hand, or a player stepping on the athlete’s hand. Stress fractures of these bones have been reported in athletes who use their hands, such as rowers.
Signs and symptoms
Diagnosis of these injuries involves examining the hand. A team physician or athletic trainer on the sidelines or a doctor in the office will examine the injured hand. It is usually swollen and often has bruising if a fracture exists. The surgeon must ensure that no pinpoint wound is present that could signify an open fracture.
Diagnosis and treatment of a metacarpal fracture
X-rays should be adequate to diagnose a metacarpal fracture. Most of these fractures can be treated without surgery. A cast or brace to protect the bones as they heal is often appropriate. If the fracture or fractures are displaced or angulated enough, surgery to hold the fracture in proper position with pins or plates and screws is often needed.
Return to sports
The time for return to sports depends on the sport and how quickly the bones heal. If it is a sport where the athlete could play in a padded cast or brace, the athlete might be able to return quickly. If it is a throwing athlete or one who uses his or her hands for fine movements, return might take six to eight weeks.
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