Finger fractures are a common problem, Doperak says. For example, people can break fingers by trying to catch a fast-flying baseball.
And that’s not the only problem attributed to balls. Thumb sprains happen when the thumb is pushed backward with force, causing the ligament to stretch or tear. Football, basketball, and baseball -- sports that involve catching a ball -- are more likely to sprain the thumb, according to Doperak. Symptoms include swelling and tenderness, pain when moving the thumb, and inability to hold things between the thumb and fingers.
The hands are also susceptible to tendon injuries, Doperak says. “People can get a mallet finger, which is a tear to a tendon in their finger that causes the end of the finger to fall forward toward the palm.” The damage to this tendon results in a finger or thumb that cannot be straightened. Typically the injury results from a force to the tip of the finger.
In fact, “If someone suspects that they have a tendon injury to their hand, that’s something that needs immediate attention,” she says. The main warning sign is an inability to straighten or bend a finger.
Treatment for arm and hand injuries
Treatment for elbow, wrist ,and finger injuries vary, depending on the problem. But common therapies include: resting, icing, and elevating the injured area; pain medication; cortisone shots in severe cases of tennis elbow; splinting or immobilizing the injured part; and wearing a cast to allow a fracture to heal.
Some injuries require surgery, Doperak says, especially a tendon injury. For example, fingers may need surgical repair of the tendons in order for the hand to function properly again. Patients may also need surgery to stabilize a fracture or to treat a bone that hasn’t healed right.
Tips for preventing exercise injuries
Overuse is a major reason for injuries, but there are other factors, too, experts say. Here are some prevention tips:
Don’t overuse your arm. Across a broad spectrum of sports, “Usually, you find the same theme in place, and that’s an overuse type of mechanism,” says Brian Hagen, PhD, DPT, a sports medicine physical therapist and clinical assistant professor at the University of Pittsburgh’s School of Health and Rehabilitation Sciences.
Not only should adults know their limits, but parents need to protect children from too much wear and tear. Overuse injuries in children and teens have soared now that many play a sport year-round, not just for a season, Hagen says. To make matters worse, many young athletes play in multiple leagues for the same sport, whether it’s baseball, soccer, or another activity. “They may play Monday night for one coach and Tuesday night for another coach,” he says.
“What we’re seeing subsequently is a lot of overuse injuries much earlier on in these kids,” he says. “They’re never giving themselves an off-season or a chance to recover or to train properly.” Hagen says that he has treated children as young as age 12 for shoulder and elbow overuse injuries, for example, from throwing balls too often.