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​Bearing the pain: Scaphoid bone fracture

​​​​​​​​​​​​Scaphoid bone fracture is the most common wrist fracture. It usually occurs when falling on an outstretched arm. It is a common injury in sports and more often occurs in younger men. But the symptoms of scaphoid fracture can be deceiving. Good recovery depends on early diagnosis and treatment.

A fall onto an outstretched hand with an extended wrist can indicate a possible scaphoid fracture. Many times the injury is assumed a sprain and medical treatment is not immediately sought. However, as pain continues and symptoms don’t subside, the injured person will seek medical attention. Common symptom complaints may include:

  • Pain at the base of the thumb on the wrist when pressed
  • Pain with forceful extension of the wrist or in a “push up” type action
  • Pain produced during lifting

A wrist X-ray can be helpful in diagnosis, but is not always reliable. Instead, diagnosis of scaphoid fracture is determined by a recounting of the physical actions leading up to the injury, identifying the location of the pain and reviewing X-rays of the injured wrist.

Treatment options for scaphoid fracture vary depending on these considerations:

  • How much time has lapsed between the time of the injury and the diagnosis of the fracture? 
  • What is the location of the fracture line? 
  • How restricted can the person be during treatment and recovery?

Scaphoid fracture can be treated with short or long arm casts involving the thumb, or surgery.

Good recovery depends most on how quickly treatment is started. Different types of fracture patterns respond better to surgery rather than casting alone. Recovery may take as long as six months.

Article submitted by Steven Taylor, M.D.​

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​​​Share comments or questions on this information email: sports.medicine@marshfieldclinic.org​.


 

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