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Orthopedics. 2013 Jun;36(6):815-9. doi: 10.3928/01477447-20130523-30.

Opinions regarding the management of hand and wrist injuries in elite athletes.

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Division of Hand and Upper Extremity Surgery, Hospital for Special Surgery, New York, New York 10021 , USA.


Injuries to the hand and wrist are commonly encountered in athletes. Decisions regarding the most appropriate treatment, the timing of treatment, and return to play are made while balancing desires to resume athletic activities and sound orthopedic principles. Little recognition in the literature exists regarding the need for a different approach when treating these injuries in elite athletes and the timing to return to play. This study explored the complexities of treating hand and wrist injuries in the elite athlete. Thirty-seven consultant hand surgeons for teams in the National Football League, National Basketball Association, and Major League Baseball completed a brief electronic survey about the management of 10 common hand injuries. Notable variability existed in responses for initial management, return to protected play, and return to unprotected play for all injuries, aside from near consensus agreement (94%) that elite athletes with stable proximal interphalangeal dislocations could immediately return to protected play. Basketball surgeons were less likely to recommend early return to protected play than non-basketball surgeons. Baseball surgeons were more likely to recommend early unprotected play after scaphoid fixation. Football surgeons were more likely to recommend earlier return to protected play after thumb ulnar collateral ligament injuries, whereas basketball surgeons were less likely to recommend earlier return to protected play. This study demonstrated wide variability in how consultant hand surgeons approach the treatment of hand and wrist injuries. The findings emphasize the need to individually tailor treatment decisions to the patient's desires and demands, particularly in high-performance athletes.

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