If boxing is your workout of choice, you will enjoy plenty of health advantages: cardiovascular endurance, body strength, hand-eye coordination and reduced stress. But boxing and hand pain can frequently go (if you'll pardon the pun) hand-in-hand.
According to a March 2017 study published by Hand, boxing causes hand injuries more frequently than injuries in any other part of the body, even more frequently than head injuries. These frequent hand injuries can result in time lost from training and competition.
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Here are some of the hand injuries that boxers typically sustain, and what medical options are available for treating them.
Boxing Hand Injuries
The Hospital for Special Surgery explains that boxing is what's referred to as a contact sport, where participants are frequently making contact with one another. If you're training solo, your hand might not come in contact with another person, but it will still be coming in contact with a heavy punching bag. This means that you're prone to injuries from repetition or trauma, most commonly a fracture or sprain.
If you land a punch wrong and have pain, swelling or warmth, this is an indication that something is wrong. Two common boxing injuries are a boxer's fracture and a boxer's knuckle.
Los Angeles-based academic healthcare organization Cedars-Sinai explains that a boxer's fracture is when boxers experience a break in the neck of the metacarpal bones in their fifth finger, commonly referred to as the pinky. Metacarpal bones are the intermediate bones in the flat part of the hand, which connect the finger bones to the wrist bones.
This fracture usually happens after a direct injury to a clenched fist, and it's an injury that isn't limited to just boxers; it could happen when somebody punches a solid object at high speed or falls hard on a closed wrist.
Another common cause of boxing hand pain is a boxer's knuckle, an injury that University of Rochester Medical Center describes as a torn tendon at the base of the middle finger resulting from a direct blow to the knuckle.
Read more: The Beginner's Guide to Boxing Wraps
If you have a boxer's fracture or boxer's knuckle, your pain might be mild or severe, depending on the severity and complexity of the injury. Cedars-Sinai explains that treatment will entail washing cuts in the skin, getting a tetanus shot, resting your hand for a few days, icing the injury several times a day, wearing a splint and possibly taking pain medication.
Minnesota-based healthcare organization Fairview notes that an especially bad boxer's fracture might require surgery by an orthopedist. This surgery will entail making a cut in the skin to put the bones back in place if the bone has broken through the skin or if the bone is broken in several places. Patients who use their hands for work (such as musicians or crafters) or patients whose hands don't heal normally will likely require this surgery.
Cedars-Sinai recommends working with a physical therapist throughout the healing process to learn the proper exercises that will help your hand get strong again. This is important because a boxer's fracture, when left untreated, can limit your range of motion or even limit your ability to grip.
To avoid boxing hand pain or boxing hand injuries, make sure that you are training with proper technique. It's also wise to keep your bones strong by eating a diet rich in vitamin D, calcium and protein.
Is this an emergency? If you are experiencing serious medical symptoms, please see the National Library of Medicine’s list of signs you need emergency medical attention or call 911.