Common Wrist Injuries from Auto Accidents

According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), the state of Georgia suffered 1,223 traffic fatalities due to motor vehicle collisions in 2011. The largest driving infractions contributing to national traffic fatalities include drunk driving, speeding, driver distraction, and bad weather conditions. While accident injuries will vary dependent upon the severity of the collision, any Georgia resident involved in a crash is advised to seek medical care.

Wrist injuries are amongst the most common physical damages suffered following a traffic crash. Unfortunately, the majority of wrist injuries suffered during auto accidents go undiagnosed, as accident victims tend to downplay their injuries to avoid a hospital visit. In other scenarios where the accident is severe, passenger occupants tend to ignore wrist injuries when more severe injuries have been suffered in other parts of the body.

Common Wrist Injuries

The human wrist is made up of two forearm bones, the ulna and the radius, as well as eight carpal bones, pisiform, triquetrum, trapezium, trapezoid, lunate, navicular or scaphoid, hamate, and the capitate. In addition to these forearm bones and carpal bones, there are many ligaments present in the wrist which connects the bones to one another. The carpal bones support a long tube running through the wrist, known as the carpel tunnel. The carpel tunnel is made up of nerves and tendons and covered by ligaments which hold it in place.

Due to the complexities in the makeup of the human wrist, any damage to this area of the body may require a variety of different treatment plans. Wrist injuries range significantly from simple sprains to much more severe fractures. Regardless of the severity, however, all accident victims with wrist injuries should see a medical professional following a crash. Below, we outline the most common types of wrist injuries suffered from auto accidents in Georgia.

Wrist Sprain

Wrist sprains are the most common of any type of wrist damage and indicate some type of damage to the ligaments. The stretching or tearing of ligaments often causes wrist sprains in accident victims, often the result of a forceful bending caused by the impact. Wrist injuries are broken into three grades in regard to severity. Grade 1 injuries are the most minor and indicate that the wrist ligaments have been stretched but not torn. The typical symptoms associated with wrist sprains include pain, bruising, swelling, and discoloration. Treatment for these injuries is often RICE (rest, ice, compression, and elevation). In addition, casts or splints are usually given to patients to heal properly and keep the wrist immobile.

Torn Wrist Ligaments

Grade 2 wrist injuries refer to the tearing of the ligaments in the wrist. More severe than Grade 1 damage, patients with Grade 2 injuries may lose some function of the wrist. Grade 3 injuries are when the ligaments are completely torn and are often paired with a joint surface fracture. In these situations, accident victims will often feel immense pain and swelling. MRI scans are often necessary so that medical professionals are able to determine how extensive the wrist damage may be.

Immediate surgery is required to treat Grade 3 damage. Following the surgery, the patient will need to immobilize the wrist and undergo physical therapy to regain maximum functionality. Chronic instability and debilitating arthritis is often developed if the accident victims fail to treat the injury.

Scaphoid Fracture

The scaphoid bone is the smallest of any wrist bones and has the largest chance of being broken. Located on the thumb side of the wrist where bending takes place, fractures to the scaphoid is often a result of motor vehicle collisions. Unfortunately, many accident victims mistake this type of damage as a sprain and neglect to treat it properly. As such, all accident victims are encourage to seek medical care for x-rays to determine the injuries suffered. In fact, because some scaphoid fractures do not show up on an x-ray, a doctor will determine whether or not you require a splint to immobilize the broken bone.

While treatment for this wrist damage will depend upon the extent and location of the injury, a doctor is an essential part of healing. Fractures close to the thumb generally take a few weeks to heal when properly protected. A cast may be necessary in some cases. Unfortunately, situations where the break occurs near the middle of the bone or close to the forearm, healing is far more complex. Surgery may be required to treat the fracture and healing may take as long as six months. While physical therapy is helpful in the recovery process, those accident victims who have suffered from a serious scaphoid fracture may never fully regain the same strength and motion as they had prior to the crash.