Upper extremity injuries are some of the most common injuries in athletes. They also can be easily dismissed or downplayed by the athlete when they want to get back to sport. Mark Baratz, MD, an orthopaedic surgeon with Orthopaedic Specialists–UPMC who focuses on upper extremity surgery and sports injuries, weighs in on common hand and arm injuries.
Common Hand and Arm Injuries
Upper extremity injuries can include any injury to the hand, elbow, arm, and shoulder. There are two types of upper extremity injury:
- Acute injuries, which are caused by a specific event or accident
- Overuse injuries, which occur overtime from repetition
“Much like older adults, athletes are prone to overuse injuries from the repetitive nature of their sports,” says Dr. Baratz. “For example, baseball pitchers are especially prone to overuse injuries due to their repeated overhand throwing motion. This is why rules limiting the number of pitches per game are so important, especially for young athletes.”
A few of the common upper extremity injuries in athletes include:
Seeking Treatment for Hand and Arm Injuries
After sustaining an injury, athletes should be removed from play and evaluated by an athletic trainer or another medical professional. After the initial evaluation, follow up with a primary care sports medicine physician or orthopaedic surgeon is recommended. These experts will obtain a careful history, conduct a full exam, and will likely recommend an x-ray or other advanced imaging in order to determine the diagnosis.
Once the injury is diagnosed, your doctor will be able to recommend the best treatment options, which may include:
- Reduced activity
- Physical therapy
- Medication or injections
Hand and Arm Injury Prevention
While acute injuries are a result of a specific incidence, there are ways to help prevent overuse injuries.
One of the best ways to help prevent overuse injuries is by following any rest guidelines suggested for your sport or position (such as guidelines for pitchers).
In addition, strength and conditioning exercises both during the season and in the off-season are important aspects of any sport.
Before beginning any strength and conditioning program, consult a doctor, physical therapist, athletic trainer, or sports performance coach to help identify the best plan for you and your sport.
Orthopaedic Care, Closer to Home
Dr. Baratz is vice chairman of orthopaedic surgery at UPMC and director of the hand and upper extremity fellowship at the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine, where he also received his medical degree. He is a consultant to the Pittsburgh Penguins®, as well as NFL, NBA, and MLB teams.
At the new UPMC Outpatient Center on Clairton Boulevard, just off Route 51, patients can see Dr. Baratz for a number of orthopaedic conditions including:
- Acute nerve injuries
- Adult, adolescent, and pediatric upper extremity issues
- Brachial Plexus injuries
- Shoulder, elbow, wrist, and hand arthritis
- Fractures of the shoulder, elbow, and hand
- Ligament injury of the shoulder, elbow, wrist, or hand
- Rotator cuff tears
- Tendon ruptures
- Vascular insufficiency
Along with seeing patients at the West Mifflin location, he has office hours in Bethel Park, South Side, McCandless, and Washington, Pa.
For more information on upper extremity injuries, or to schedule an appointment at the UPMC Outpatient Center on Clairton Boulevard, call 877-471-0935.
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