Orthopaedic Conditons & Treatments

Hand Fracture, Causes and Symptoms

When any of the hand’s long bones (called the metacarpals) or short bones (called the phalanges) are broken, it is called a hand fracture. This injury is the most common bone fracture. A hand fracture is an injury associated with athletes who participate in contact sports (like soccer, rugby and football) and winter sports (like snowboarding and skiing). It is very important to seek immediate medical intervention and care if you think you have suffered a hand fracture. The hand’s many bones (it has nineteen small and large bones) must retain their alignment in order for your hand to work correctly – so you are able to do things like button your shirt or grab a pencil.

The hand is amazingly complex and is quite essential to humans. Without our ability to grab things with our hands’ natural dexterity, we surely would not be as successful a species as we are. Most hand injuries are preventable. It is important to be very careful with your hands at all times. If you find that you are suffering from the symptoms of a hand fracture, though, it is imperative that you make your way to an emergency room. If one’s hands do not work correctly, one’s quality of life worsens appreciably. 

Anatomy of the Hand
The hand, which operates as a unitary body, is actually composed of many parts. It consists of the following:

  • Metacarpals (these five long bones make up the palm)
  • Phalanges (these fourteen small bones make up the thumb and fingers; the thumb is made of two phalanges, and the other fingers are each made of three)

Types of Hand Fractures
Hand fractures can be divided into two main types:

Broken metacarpal(s) – When you catch yourself as you are falling, it is frequently your palm that bears the brunt of the blow. This type of fall can result in broken metacarpal(s).
Broken phalange(s) – The fingers – formed by the phalanges – are not very strong on their own. They can be crushed by an object or cracked by overextension.

Causes of Hand Fractures
A hand fracture is generally the result of a fall or a blow to the hand. The following are the causes of hand fractures:

Falling on an outstretched hand – When you catch yourself with one hand after a fall, you are putting a lot of stress on your metacarpal bones. If it is a hard fall, or if your bones are weakened (for example, by osteoporosis), you are vulnerable to hand fractures.
A blow to the hand – If you receive a blow to your hand, you may sustain a fracture. If the fingers are not balled up, they are quite vulnerable to fracture.
Twisting the hand – If your hand is twisted, as can happen in sports, the bones of your hands can be overstressed and fracture.    

Symptoms of Hand Fractures
Different types of hand fractures have somewhat different symptoms, since they occur in different locations. But they are generalizable. If you sustain a hand fracture, your hand will hurt, bruise, swell and weaken. Additionally, your range of motion will be reduced, and you will likely not be able to grab things.

The following are common hand fracture symptoms:

  • Pain
  • Bruising
  • Swelling
  • Weakening
  • Reduced range of motion
  • The inability to grab

The symptoms of hand fracture may be mistaken for the symptoms of other medical conditions (broken wrist, sprained hand, etc.). Make sure you consult a doctor in order to determine if you have a hand fracture and get the appropriate treatment. 

The multidisciplinary team of orthopaedic experts at North Shore-LIJ Orthopaedic Institute's Trauma Services in New York treats Hand Fractures as well as a broad range of conditions that affect the bones within the body.

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