Dribbling Toward A Hand Injury

As the National Basketball Association (NBA) and the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) seasons heat up, so does the risk of injury among these athletes. The best basketball players spend hours learning to dribble and shoot. Contact during the game can also lead to falls and collisions. Both circumstances can cause hand injuries, which are common in this sport. Treating common hand injuries with surgery and non-surgical approaches can help plays return to the court.

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1. Fractured finger or hand

A basketballer’s hands are a significant asset to the team. Yet, the constant dribbling and repetitive movement can lead to finger, hand, or wrist fractures. In addition, a hard fall after a foul or player collision can damage one of the many bones in the hand. Common fracture symptoms include pain, swelling, and inflammation, especially with movement.

2. Jammed finger

The fingers contain small ligaments that help with shock absorption and flexibility. Sometimes a finger becomes jammed after receiving a blow at the end when struck by the ball or another person. A jammed finger damages the ligament and joint in the middle of the digit. The ligament becomes stretched and strained, causing sharp pain and swelling. The athlete will also have difficulty bending the finger.

3. De Quervain’s tenosynovitis

Injuries like De Quervain’s tenosynovitis happen due to overuse rather than contact injury. There are 2 tendons on the thumb side of the wrist that run down the outer thumb and through a tendon sheath. If the sheath and tendons are inflamed, the thumb becomes painful. Sometimes a previous wrist injury can lead to De Quervain’s tenosynovitis. Athletes will notice pain grabbing the ball, shooting, or receiving a pass. This injury is common among those who perform lots of dribbling or shooting drills.

Treating hand injuries conservatively

Most basketball injuries, including hand fractures, can benefit from non-surgical treatment. Some doctors recommend a combination of rest, ice, compression, and elevation (RICE) for several weeks. The RICE method gives the hand time to heal. Physical therapy (PT) can also help an athlete regain range of movement (ROM), reduce pain, and strengthen the injured hand. Medication, such as anti-inflammatories, can reduce swelling and discomfort as the injury heals. Corticosteroid injections are another non-surgical method that can provide relief so athletes can still play.

Long-term relief with surgery

If non-surgical methods fail to bring relief, surgery may be needed. While people who play for fun may not want to rush into the operating room (OR), most professional basketballers opt for surgery to get back onto the court as soon as possible. Most surgical procedures are minimally invasive, meaning 1-2 small incisions are made around the wrist. The surgeon places tools in the incisions to view and repair ligaments and bones. The patient can usually leave the same day and begin recovery at home. Surgery is often followed by physical therapy to restore strength and range of motion.

Start balling again

Basketball is an exciting, competitive sport with high injury risk, particularly for hands. Some players try to play through the pain. However, basketballers should address any injuries immediately to avoid severe, long-term consequences. With non-surgical treatment, hand injuries can heal over time. For a long-term solution, minimally invasive surgery may help.

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