|Roseann H. Profumo, MOT, OTR/L|
Wrist fractures are a common injury in young athletes that often occur after a fall onto an outstretched arm. The initial treatment of a wrist fracture needs to be assessed and treated by a physician and immobilized in a splint or cast for several weeks. More severe fractures may require surgery and longer immobilization periods.
After the cast is removed it is common to feel stiff and weaker, but this should resolve within a couple of weeks with an uncomplicated fracture. A wrist that remains stiff, weak or painful may require occupational therapy to regain full function and return to sports.
Pain and stiffness are often related to continued swelling in the wrist and hand and respond well to therapy treatments. Difficulty moving the wrist up and down, side to side or turning the hand palm-side up are common range of motion limitations addressed in therapy after a wrist fracture. Other areas addressed include improving wrist and grip strength, overall coordination, and finger dexterity.
An occupational therapist will use a variety of modalities such as electrical stimulation, ice, heat and taping to address pain and swelling. A custom splint may be formed when necessary. The therapist will instruct the athlete in a personalized and progressive stretching and exercise routine to improve range of motion and strength and will supply the necessary tools to complete the rehab such as TheraPutty or TheraBand .It will be important to complete these exercises several times per day in addition to attending regular therapy appointments to maximize improvements. The last stage of rehab will include more dynamic activities that help prepare the athlete for their return to sport.