Boxer’s fractures are one of the more common and easily diagnosed finger injuries seen by Dr. Erica Umpierrez, Orthopaedic Surgeon and Hand/Upper Extremity specialist with CMC Orthopaedics. Despite the name, this form of trauma is not reserved for professional or amateur fighters. Dr. Umpierrez helps us break down this injury and how it is treated.
Tell me again how you “fell”
It’s not surprising that the name Boxer’s fracture comes from the action that caused it in the first place. This type of injury is the result of punching another person or something hard and unforgiving like a wall or refrigerator. “When a person presents with one of these, you just have to ask what happened?,” Dr. Umpierrez said, smiling. “There are some crazy stories with them but fortunately these injuries are very treatable and usually non-operative.”
According to Dr. Umpierrez, men and teenage boys are more commonly affected by this type of injury and it is usually the result of a split-second decision. “During the incident, they will often hear a pop or snap that is quickly followed by pain and swelling. This happened because they punched leading with their small finger and the force was great enough to break the head of their metacarpal,” explained Dr. Umpierrez.
How do I know if I have a Boxer’s Fracture?
Because of the type of fracture, Dr. Umpierrez said patients will almost immediately know that something is wrong. They may experience the following signs and symptoms:
- Pain in the hand
- Curvature or other deformities of the finger
- Difficulty moving one or more fingers
- Inability or difficulty gripping or closing their hand
How is it treated?
X-rays will be done to access the area and severity of the break. “We’ll probably put you in a splint for comfort,” said Dr. Umpierrez, “and then honestly they heal really great. And even if they’re not in the perfect position, it’s a finger that our body adapts to, so your knuckle might not look perfect anymore, but it will heal and continue to be a functional finger.”
Like any other bone break, there will be a period of time where resting and icing the hand will be necessary. To alleviate pain, over-the-counter anti-inflammatory medications may be adequate.
Surgery will typically only be required in severe cases and sometimes with repeated injuries. If bones are not healing correctly, surgery may be necessary, but patients who follow protocols do not typically have issues and can fully heal without major complications. “That can be a huge relief for most patients,” said Dr. Umpierrez, “because at the time when you decided to take that punch, you weren’t thinking about the long-term effects but at least you don’t have to have horrible consequences from it.”
What can I do to avoid a Boxer’s Fracture?
That’s simple according to Dr. Umpierrez. “Don’t punch anything! But if you do, come see me and I’ll take care of you while you tell me a good story.”