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Wrist Fracture

(Fracture, Wrist; Broken Wrist; Scaphoid Fracture)

Definition

A wrist fracture is a break in one or more of the bones in the wrist. This fact sheet will focus on a break in the scaphoid bone.

Causes

This injury is caused by trauma from:

  • A fall on an outstretched hand with the wrist extended
  • Severe backwards bending of the wrist
  • A blow to the wrist
  • A motor vehicle accident

Risk Factors

Things that may raise the risk of this fracture are:

  • Playing contact sports, such as football or basketball
  • Activities that may cause falls onto the hands, such as bicycling, skateboarding, rollerblading, or snowboarding
  • Doing activities that involve heights, such as being on a ladder, bike, or horse
  • Being in a motor vehicle accident

Symptoms

Symptoms may be:

  • Pain that may be worse when moving the wrist or thumb
  • Weakness in the hand
  • Swelling
  • A change in the way the wrist looks

Diagnosis

The doctor will ask about symptoms, past health, and how the injury happened. Images may be taken with:

Treatment

It can take up to 12 weeks to heal. The goals of treatment are to manage pain and support the bone as it heals. Options may be:

  • Medicine to ease pain and swelling
  • A splint or cast to keep bones in place as they heal
  • Exercises to help with muscle strength and range of motion once the bone has healed

Some fractures cause pieces of bone to come apart. These pieces will need to be put back into place. This may be done:

  • Without surgery—Anesthesia will be used to ease pain while the doctor moves the pieces back into place.
  • With surgery—Pins, screws, plates, or wires may be used to reconnect the pieces and hold them in place.

Prevention

Most fractures are due to accidents. Wear wrist guards for sports that may involve falls or contact, such as rollerblading and football.

RESOURCES:

The American Orthopaedic Society for Sports Medicine
http://www.sportsmed.org

Ortho Info—American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons
http://orthoinfo.org

CANADIAN RESOURCES:

Canadian Orthopaedic Association
http://www.coa-aco.org

Canadian Orthopaedic Foundation
http://www.canorth.org

REFERENCES:

Dias J, Kantharuban S. Treatment of Scaphoid Fractures: European Approaches. Hand Clin. 2017 Aug;33(3):501-509.

Scaphoid fracture. EBSCO DynaMed website. Available at: https://www.dynamed.com/condition/scaphoid-fracture. Accessed September 30, 2020.

Scaphoid fracture of the wrist. Ortho Info—American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons website. Available at: https://orthoinfo.aaos.org/en/diseases--conditions/scaphoid-fracture-of-the-wrist. Accessed September 30, 2020.

Last reviewed September 2020 by EBSCO Medical Review Board Warren A. Bodine, DO, CAQSM  Last Updated: 9/11/2020