Fall sports season is upon us. Rough-and-tumble contact sports like football, soccer and lacrosse include an unavoidable reality: collisions. Those collisions sometimes lead to broken bones. The key is making sure fractures are managed properly, which creates optimal healing and allows the athlete to return to the game.
For example, finger fractures are common in many youth sports, yet too often coaches and parents minimize these injuries and fail to seek treatment for their young athletes.
Sometimes, when a kid breaks a finger, people think: Well, the doctor isn’t going to do much for it anyway. They’ll probably just tape it up. So we will just take care of that at home.
That thinking can do a disservice to an athlete. Early evaluation can determine simple from complicated and often allows for advice on continued play with proper protection.
However, there are plenty of circumstances in which a broken finger necessitates proper diagnostics and professional care. There are a percentage of finger injuries that require very specific treatment, and timing is important. If it’s a fresh injury, we can initiate treatment immediately and the healing is quick, effective and complete.
If you wait too long, treatment may be more difficult, leading to a much longer healing process.
Wrist injuries are equally common, particularly in sports that involve falls. As athletes attempt to brace their falls using extended hands against the turf, the wrists take the brunt of the impact and are damaged. The good news is that the vast majority of these injuries can be treated with casting and, in most cases, after a brief period of healing time, the athlete can safely return to the field, even while still in a cast.
The thing I really stress to kids and parents is that not all fractures are the same. This is why proper management and expert care is so important. A simple office visit for an evaluation of an injury is really time well spent for an athlete.
Matthew T. DesJardins, M.D., is a board-certified, fellowship-trained Sports Medicine specialist with experience treating all athletes, from weekend warriors to Olympic-level competitors.