What Is Boxer’s Fracture? Symptoms, Causes, And Treatment

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Save yourself from intense pain due to boxer’s fracture by knowing what it is and its treatments.

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In this article:

  1. What Is Boxer’s Fracture?
  2. Where Can You Find the Fifth Metacarpal Bone?
  3. Who Are at Risk of the Injury?
  4. What Are the Symptoms of the Boxer’s Hand Fracture?
  5. When Is the Best Time to See a Doctor?
  6. How Do You Treat Boxer’s Fracture?
  7. Why Do You Need to Treat the Fracture?

Boxer’s Fracture | Why Do You Develop It and What’s the Best Treatment?

What Is Boxer’s Fracture?

Boxer’s fracture is an injury affecting the hands. It involves the breaking or cracking of the neck of the fifth metacarpal bone, which is in the pinky or the little finger.

It derives its name from boxers. People believe they are the most prone to it.

In reality, it can happen to anyone. It is also more common among those who don’t have enough boxing training.

There are different types of boxer’s fracture: closed, open, non-displaced, displaced, and comminuted.

The fracture is closed when the broken or cracked bone doesn’t break the skin. Otherwise, it is open.

The others refer to the condition of the bones after the injury. The displaced ones mean the opposite ends of the bone have become unattached.

They can also break into many pieces (comminuted). They can be stable, which means they did indeed break, but they didn’t separate.

Where Can You Find the Fifth Metacarpal Bone?

To understand the exact location of the fracture, it’s time for some anatomy lesson. The fingers or the bones that compose them (called the phalanges) connect to the rest of the arms through the carpal bones.

These are the bones that complete the wrist, and there are eight of them. They too can be prone to fractures and other conditions.

The metacarpal bones are the ones that connect the phalanges to the carpal bones. Each finger has one.

The metacarpal bones, on the other hand, also have different parts. These are the base, head, shaft, and neck.

  • The head is the part that connects the metacarpal bone to the finger.
  • It is the base that attaches the metacarpal bone to the wrist bone.
  • The shaft is the slender component while the neck links the head and the shaft.

When a person clenches their fist to reveal the knuckles, they can actually locate the head. It also explains why the neck is the most vulnerable when they punch or hit an immovable object.

Who Are at Risk of the Injury?

punching table | What Is Boxer's Fracture? Symptoms, Causes, and Treatment | boxers fracture cast

As mentioned, the term “boxer’s fracture” comes from the fact it tends to occur among those involved in this type of sport. It may not provide the right picture, though.

It is more common among the inexperienced ones. They still don’t have the right techniques to reduce their risk of injury and protect their bones.

They may also be intentional such as getting into fights. For this reason, some people call it the brawler’s fracture.

It can develop when a person hits or punches an immovable object or when they fall on a surface with clenched fists.

Note too metacarpal fractures can occur among the other non-thumb fingers. In fact, they make up over 85% of all cracking or broken metacarpal bones.

Among them, though, the one in the fifth or the pinky finger is the most vulnerable as it has to deal with the strongest impact.

These injuries tend to happen among men more than women. The assumption is they are the more likely to get involved in contact sports such as boxing, as well as brawls or fights.

A 2011 study, however, cited how women tend to have a higher association between intentional punch injuries and psychiatric disease.

Older people and those who suffer from bone disease or have mineral deficiency may also be at risk of boxer’s fracture.

What Are the Symptoms of the Boxer’s Hand Fracture?

The common signs and symptoms of the injury include the following:

  • Pain (which can be localized or radiating)
  • Tenderness and swelling in the pinky finger or the knuckles
  • Redness of the affected area
  • Difficulty to lift or use the little finger
  • Deformity
  • Knuckle depression
  • Bruising or discoloration
  • Lacerations and abrasions

RELATED: What Is Carpal Tunnel Syndrome And Treatment

When Is the Best Time to See a Doctor?

You may have a fracture if you hear a snapping or popping sound the moment you hit your fist on a hard object. If this is the case, it’s best to see a doctor as soon as you can.

If the doctor is not available, you can proceed to the emergency department to undergo a physical examination or evaluation. The doctor will also provide you with treatment options.

Some people may choose to ignore the fracture, but there’s a possibility the symptoms can only worsen over time. It may also increase the risk of severe deformity, which may only lead to disability.

How Do You Treat Boxer’s Fracture?

Before treating, the doctor, who is an orthopedic specialist, needs to assess the condition. First, they perform a physical exam.

They will look for any sign of bruising, swelling, or discoloration on the affected area. They may ask you to clench your fist to reveal your knuckles or gently press on them.

Then, they will request you undergo an X-ray procedure. This is the only way for them to determine if it is indeed a fifth metacarpal injury or if it’s a different bone.

Treatment Choices

After these, they can then offer various treatments. These can include the following:

1. Stability Options

These can refer to boxer’s fracture splint or boxer’s fracture cast. These can limit the movement of the affected bone to give it time to heal.

It’s best not to do the cast or splinting yourself. The tightness depends on the swelling of the bone.

What Is Splinting? It is a process of providing strong and stable support for the injured finger. Unlike a cast, it uses a rigid base and easy-to-adjust wraps.

There’s also the boxer’s fracture brace. It is ideal if the injury also affects the fourth metacarpal bone or the other bones and joints of the fingers.

2. Surgery

The doctor may also recommend a boxer’s fracture surgery if the injury results in the bones breaking the skin or the deformity is severe. It may also be necessary for those who depend on fine motor skills in their profession.

Other options are:

  • Pain medications
  • Ice compression
  • Rest, including keeping the affected hand above the heart level
  • Tetanus vaccine if there are lacerations or skin breakage
  • Physical therapy, especially to restore mobility

When it comes to the boxer’s fracture recovery time, it depends on many factors. These are the severity of the fracture, the age of the person, any preexisting medical condition, and the therapy received.

On average, it takes about 10 weeks to restore the function of the affected hand. Following the guidelines of the therapists and doctors may help speed up the boxer’s fracture recovery time.

Why Do You Need to Treat the Fracture?

Any type of bone fracture can limit the movement of a person. It means they cannot function properly.

If their work depends on the extensive use of the hands and limbs, then a boxer’s fracture can mean disability and chronic pain.

Without the right treatment, the symptoms can get worse. The deformity may also become long-term.

 

Here is a quick video about boxer’s fracture from Vincent Nuccio:

Boxer’s fracture can sometimes happen to you, but you can also avoid it by doing two things.

First, don’t punch or box without the proper equipment or training. Second, reduce your risk factors such as mineral depletion or bone disease.

The topic of bone-related diseases can be extensive and broad, and it may need a separate discussion. Supplements to strengthen them, though, can help.

Have you experienced a boxer’s fracture? Share your story in the comments section below!

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