Getting Around To Throwing After Wrist Surgery

A distal radius fracture is defined as damage to the end of the radius bone near the wrist. The radius is the larger bone in the arm that connects to the hand. Distal radius fractures make up almost 18% of all fractures and are common in older individuals. Athletes can also experience this injury after a fall or collision. For severe cases, wrist surgery is necessary for healing and recovery. Recovering from a distal radius fracture and wrist surgery can be challenging. This is especially true for individuals who want to engage in activities like throwing a ball. Therefore, rest and rehabilitation are necessary before returning to sports.


The surgical procedure

Wrist surgery, like any other procedure, has a recovery period. The length of time varies by individual and depends on several critical factors. The surgical approach to treating a distal radius fracture depends on the severity and complexity of the injury. Common techniques include open reduction, internal fixation (ORIF), and percutaneous pinning. With ORIF surgery, the fractured bones are realigned, and the break is secured with screws, plates, or pins. Percutaneous pinning consists of the insertion of wires through the skin. This technique stabilizes the fracture, minimizes soft tissue damage, and promotes quicker healing.

Recovery timeline

Following surgery, the initial focus is on pain management and immobilization, allowing for proper healing. The wrist may be placed in a cast or splint to stabilize and support bone fusion. The recovery time depends on the fracture’s severity and the doctor’s recommendations. Some patients may need immobilization for several weeks to ensure optimal healing, while others may need longer. Patients must adhere to the recovery process, such as taking the prescribed medication regimen during the initial recovery phase. Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) and analgesics may be recommended to manage pain and inflammation. Rest and wound care are also essential during this time.

Let’s get rehabilitated

Early rehabilitation and physical therapy (PT) are crucial as the healing progresses. Rehabilitation helps in restoring wrist function. A physical therapist will design a customized exercise program based on the goal of returning to the throwing sport as soon as possible. The program aims to improve range of motion, strength, and proprioception. Exercises may include gentle wrist flexion and extension movements. Grip-strengthening exercises help to enhance stability while using tools like therapy balls to improve coordination and balance.

Gradual progression

Recovery from a distal radius fracture involves gradually reintroducing activities to avoid re-injury and optimize outcomes. Patients slowly progress to strengthening exercises, joint mobilization techniques, and functional activities. These activities are tailored to the patient’s specific goals and lifestyles. The individual’s response to treatment guides progression through subsequent rehabilitation stages. Adjustments are made as necessary to ensure continued improvement. Various treatments may be utilized to help patients transition from being immobilized to active rehabilitation. These treatments include ultrasound therapy and electrical stimulation to promote tissue healing and reduce pain and inflammation. The process can take several weeks, increasing intensity based on the patient’s healing abilities.

Throw me a ball

Athletes with distal radius fractures are eager to return to throwing a ball, preferably without pain. The timeline depends on pain levels, age, general health, and the severity of the fracture. Athletes and people who need a functional wrist for daily activities typically might wait at least 6-8 weeks after surgery for clearance to return to sports. Even then, clearance starts with returning to light-throwing activities. Further strengthening and healing are required, lasting several weeks before full power throwing is possible. Patients who choose minimally invasive surgery (MIS) are likely to see a quicker recovery and return to sports.

Monitoring progress and lifestyle modifications

Both doctor and patient must monitor progress during rehab and address any challenges. The doctor might suggest changes to activities or extra support if needed. Regular check-ups track progress. Ergonomic changes for daily activities can help with wrist recovery. This includes using ergonomic tools, aligning wrists, and taking breaks to rest and stretch. For athletes, eating well and staying hydrated are essential for healing after wrist surgery. A balanced diet with protein, vitamins, and minerals helps tissue repair and makes bones and tissues stronger. Staying hydrated is also crucial for maintaining joint health and facilitating cellular repair.

Navigating the road to wrist recovery

Recovering from a wrist injury requires patience, hard work, and a good rehab plan. Surgery is often needed for distal radius fractures to stabilize the bone and promote healing. Focusing on healing and rehab is essential, especially for individuals hoping to return to throwing sports. Most athletes can return to mild throwing after a few weeks for a minor fracture. Remember, every journey to recovery is unique. Work with the healthcare team to navigate the process safely.

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