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Expert Alert: Don't let common winter injuries take you down

Rhoda Madson, Mayo Clinic News Network on

Published in Health & Fitness

Dr. Kakar also sees a rise in wrist injuries immediately after winter storms, especially among older people whose bones may be fragile because of conditions like osteopenia or osteoporosis. However, he also sees snowboarders, skiers and ice skaters who have broken their wrists during their activities.

Treatments can include a splint, cast or surgery. In most cases, Dr. Kakar says four to six weeks in a cast to let the bone heal may be needed, assuming it's aligns properly. Sometimes surgery is needed. Surgeons then place plates, screws or pins to stabilize the broken bone so it can heal correctly.

Dr. Kakar says he sees many broken wrists during holiday merriment. People fall, don't realize they're hurt and wake up sore. It's best to get your injury checked out as soon as possible. If you must walk in snow or on ice, take it slow and have something or someone to hold onto in case you start to fall.

-- Thumb ulnar collateral ligament injuries

"Skier's thumb" happens when the skier falls — while the ski pole is planted — onto an outstretched hand or thumb, or the pole pulls against the hand and tears the ulnar collateral ligament of the thumb. The ligament can be partially torn or completely ruptured. Most of the time, X-rays are negative for fracture, though it's possible to have an avulsion, or chip fracture, Dr. Kakar says.

 

Symptoms of skier's thumb include tenderness, pain and swelling, as well as instability of the thumb knuckle, or metacarpophalangeal joint. If the patient's thumb is stable, Dr. Kakar can treat the injury with a splint or cast for four to six weeks. Surgery may be necessary with unstable joints, complete ruptures or fractures.

"It's an outpatient procedure. We repair the ligament back down to the bone," Dr. Kakar says. "After that, patients go to a hand therapist who can help get them back to their activities and out of a cast much quicker, as surgical techniques have advanced."

Besides skiing, thumb ulnar collateral ligament injuries can happen in a number of sports that require hand-held equipment, or hand or ball contact ― or, for example, if you fall off a bicycle and the thumb catches the handlebar. A chronic version ― called "gamekeeper's thumb" ― occurs when repeated motions gradually stretch and tear the ligament.

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