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What is FOOSH?

Reviewed by Dan Brennan, MD on April 09, 2021

FOOSH is a term used to reference a number of orthopedic injuries. It's a sort of acronym, and stands for a "fall onto an outstretched hand." FOOSH accidents are the most common hand and wrist injuries.

These injuries are mostly caused by accidental slip and falls. They can happen to anyone, though they are more likely to happen to older adults and adults that engage in high-impact sports. 

Common FOOSH Injuries

As mentioned earlier, injuries caused by FOOSH are some of the most common orthopedic injuries. Some of the orthopedic injuries caused by FOOSH include:

  • Colles’ fractures. A Colles' fracture occurs in the forearm or wrist. During this fracture, the broken bone is bent outwards or backwards.
  • Boxer’s fracture. These are fractures you can sustain in the small bones of your hand. Boxer’s fractures, as their name implies, happen if you punch something with a lot of force. Though these are a common injury with boxers and wrestlers, you can also suffer from a boxer's fracture if you try to break a fall with an outstretched hand.
  • Elbow fractures and dislocation. A FOOSH can cause a fracture or dislocation of the bones around your elbow.
  • Shoulder fractures. Elderly individuals with low bone density may experience shoulder fractures, also called proximal humerus fractures. Others can also suffer from shoulder fractures and dislocation as a result of FOOSH injuries, like separated shoulder joints and fractures of the scapula (shoulder blade) or clavicle (collarbone).
  • Smith fractures. Falling onto a flexed wrist can cause Smith fractures. Smith fractures are also known as Goyrand fractures. Though not a very common type of fracture, they mostly happen in young males and older women.
  • Cellulitis. Cellulitis is a type of bacterial infection that may occur at the site of the FOOSH injury. This may happen if the injury left a large wound or if the individual has a weak immune system.
  • Bruising. Bruises may form at the site of injury. The bruising usually goes away by itself.

Some of the injuries caused by FOOSH can be quite serious. Consider seeing your doctor for a proper examination and treatment recommendations.

What To Do After a FOOSH Injury

Following an injury, there are a few steps you should take to make sure that you don't suffer any additional complications. 

Don't panic. Panicking may make you do something reckless that could hurt you even further. The safest thing to do is to calm down. If the accident has occurred in the middle of a busy street or sidewalk, make sure to avoid traffic. Take deep breaths and try to distract yourself from any pain you may be experiencing. 

Seek medical attention. Sometimes it might not be easy to detect an injury caused by FOOSH. Consider having your primary care doctor take a look at your affected arm or wrist. If you can, check yourself into the emergency room. There, the professionals may administer the RICE method (Rest, Ice, Compression, and Elevation), a procedure for the treatment of acute bone fractures.

Visit your physical therapist. Once the basic RICE procedure has been performed, book an appointment with your physical therapist for further treatment and recovery.

Treatment and Recovery

Treatment of FOOSH injuries depends on the type of injury. If you suffered a mild injury, recovery may take a few weeks. However, if the injury is severe and required treatment with surgery, you may have to do some physical therapy to fully recover. The whole recovery process may take up to two months.

How to Prevent FOOSH Injuries

Although FOOSH accidents are unpredictable, you can minimize the risks by employing the following preventative measures:

  • Keep your home clean and free from clutter 
  • Perform basic exercises to improve your balance and strengthen your mobility.
  • Install grab bars in your bathroom to aid against slipping and falling

Having adequate physical strength and maintaining a safe living environment can significantly reduce your risk of suffering a FOOSH injury. Consult with your physical therapist on the best preventative measures and balance exercises.

WebMD Medical Reference

Sources

SOURCES:

American Academy of Orthopedic Surgeons: “Shoulder Trauma (Fractures and Dislocations.”

American Association of Retired Persons: “The Art of Falling Safely.”

American Society for Surgery the Hand: “6 Signs Of An Elbow Fracture.”, "Advice From A Certified Hand Therapist On FOOSH – Hoverboards & Beyond."

Global Health Institute: “Accidents Don’t Happen, but Preventable Injuries and Violence Do."

Harvard Health Publishing: "Balance and Mobility.”

National Health Service: "Sports Injuries."

National Center for Biotechnology Information: "Colles’ Fracture.", "Proximal Humerus Fracture.”, "What Is the Evidence for Rest, Ice, Compression, and Elevation Therapy in the Treatment of Ankle Sprains in Adults?”

Orthopedic Associates: "What is FOOSH?"

Radiopaedia: "Smith Fracture."

Temple Health: “Broken a Fall with Your Hand? How to Prevent a FOOSH Injury.”

University of Rochester Medical Center: “Boxer’s Fracture.”

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