The most important weapons of an MMA fighter are his hands. Each hand includes tendons, muscles, nerves, blood vessels, and most importantly, bones. The hand has 27 separate bones including carpals (wrist), metacarpals (palm), and phalanges (fingers). They can be used for blocking, grappling, wrestling, and as a striking tool. During these types of actions, there are a variety of injuries the hands can sustain, specifically to bones, including:
The most common injury in contact sports is called the metacarpalor “boxer” fracture. The main damage is done to the bones that form the palm and knuckles, called metacarpals. When a fighter strikes,the force is transferred from the hitting knuckle to the body of the metacarpal bone, causing the bone shaft or neck of the bone to break. The most frequent metacarpal fracture is to the fifth finger area (your pinky finger). With this type of break, you may still be able to move your fingers, but there may be pain throughout the knuckle or the back of the palm. Other signs of fracture include swelling of the area, hematoma formation, deformity, and, of course, pain. Remember, just because you can move your finger, it doesn’t mean that you don’t have a fracture.
A joint dislocation is when any bone leaves its normal position in the joint due to pressure, but there is no fracture. Dislocations are recurrent, so once you have had one, you are susceptible to reinjury. This is because the tissue holding the joint stretches, leaving the joint prone to dislocation. Again, it’s always best to let a physician relocate the bone.
A sprain results when the joint is overextended, causing swelling, pain, and difficulty in movement of the joint. Tendons and ligaments travel beyond their normal range of motion, and some fibers may even break. Sprains are very common and require as much treatment as fractures, including immobilization.
The finger fracture happens when enough force is applied to a phalange (bones in the finger) and the bone breaks. Again, as in the “boxer” fracture, this type of fracture may become displaced. Finger fractures are very common in the thumb and index finger. Usually a displacement can be remedied by placing the dislocated bone back in place, a process known as reduction. It’s always a good idea to have a physician put the bone back in place because deformation is a possibility.
PREVENT AND PROTECT
Proper care of hand injuries is of utmost importance. Immobilization and rest are essential to a speedy recovery. The use of anti-inflammatory medication and cold therapy (ice) also plays an important role. The majority of chronic problems after a hand injury are almost always due to inadequate treatment or reinjury to a previous lesion. Always follow your physician’s advice, as it may very well prevent further problems.
You can help prevent injuries to your hands by:
using proper wrapping and padding when striking a heavy bag
wearing adequate gloves when striking and sparring
using correct technique when striking (use your first two knuckles)
applying ice and resting your hand if it becomes sore
seeking immediate treatment from a physician if you have swelling, discoloration of the skin, or any deformity