Causes Of Hand and Wrist Injury After Car Accidents
Most people do not realize that hand and wrist injuries are common in car accidents. How these injuries occur vary for the driver and for passengers.
Why Drivers Experience Hand or Wrist Pain
For drivers, there are two main causes of hand or wrist pain. First, there is the act of gripping the steering wheel. When a driver grips the wheel very tightly during an impact, the energy of the collision is transferred directly into the hand and wrist.
The second cause of hand or wrist pain from car accidents involves the hand or wrist hitting the inside of the car. As the car’s impact slows it down, the arm continues to move until it hits a part of the car. Common places of impact are the airbag, steering wheel, or driver’s side door or window.
Why Passengers Experience Hand or Wrist Pain
For passengers, these injuries occur because the hand or wrist hits part of the car. Common places of impact for the passenger are the airbag, dashboard, or the passenger’s side door or window. For backseat passengers, an additional place of impact is the front seat.
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Hand and Wrist Anatomy
In order to understand the common hand and wrist injuries after a car accident, you first have to understand a little bit about hand and wrist anatomy.
There are 27 bones that make up the hand and wrist: 14 in the fingers and 13 of them start in the palm and go into the wrist. In addition, there are many ligaments, tendons, muscles, and nerves. Each bone comes together in a complicated way to allow you to grip.
The 14 bones of the fingers are called phalanges. Individually they are called a phalanx. Inside the palm of the hand itself, there are eight bones. The five bones that connect to the fingers inside the hand are called metacarpals. The eight bones in the palm that meet the wrist are called the carpals. Ligaments and tendons hold all these bones together. Muscles combine with the ligaments and tendons to allow the hand to move, grip, flex, and extend.
The bones at the edge of the palm and the two bones of the arm come together to form the wrist joint. The wrist bones in the palm of the hand are called the carpals. The two long bones of the arm that meet the carpals are called the ulna and the radius. Strong ligaments hold these bones together.
Common Hand and Wrist Injuries After a Car Accident
Car accidents cause many different types of hand and wrist injuries, including pain, bruises, punctures, broken bones, or damaged ligaments, tendons, and muscles.
Finger fractures: The bones in the fingers are called phalanges or phalanx. Common finger fractures are tuft fractures, mallet fractures, thumb fractures, and phalanx fractures.
Metacarpal fractures: The bones in hand below the fingers are called metacarpal bones. Common metacarpal bone fractures include the boxer’s fracture to the fourth or fifth metacarpal.
Finger dislocation: Finger dislocation happens when the two bones in the finger separate at the joint. A dislocation can happen when a finger is forced backward (hyperextended) or forced forward in a bent position (flexion). Common finger dislocations involve the proximal interphalangeal joint, also known as the PIP joint. Other finger dislocations involve the MCP joint and the DIP joint.
Hand ligament or tendon damage: When a ligament is stretched, it is called a sprain. Sometimes a ligament or tendon of the hand can stretch to the point of tearing or breaking. This type of damage is often referred to as a torn ligament.
Tendinosis: Trauma from a car accident can cause inflammation of the tendons. This is called tendonitis.
Wrist Injuries: Like the hand, a car accident can cause damage to bones, ligaments, or tendons in the wrist.
Carpal bone fractures: The bones of the wrist inside the palm are called carpal bones. The most common wrist fracture of the carpal bones is called a scaphoid fracture. This fracture represents as much as 70% of all carpal fractures.
Distal radius fracture: One of the long bones of the arm that meets the hand and makes up part of the wrist joint is called the radius. The part that makes up the wrist joint is called the distal radius. The impact of a car accident can cause a distal radius fracture.
Wrist sprains: A wrist sprain involves stretching the ligaments and tendons in the wrist.
Carpal tunnel: Some of the nerves that run through the arm travel across the wrist joint and into the hand through the carpal tunnel. Inflammation in the carpel tunnel can cause pressure on these nerves and chronic pain.
Common Hand And Wrist Injury Symptoms
- Discoloration or bruising
- Trouble moving, flexing, or straightening your fingers or wrist
- Warmth in the fingers, hands, or wrist
- Decreased grip strength
- Pain in hands or fingers
- Burning or tingling in the hand
- Wrist pain or a sore wrist
- Burning or tingling in the wrist
Treatment for a Hand or Wrist Injury
It’s often impossible to tell immediately after a car accident whether a hand or wrist injury needs immediate treatment. This is why you should go directly to the hospital, walk-in clinic, or your local physician to get any hand or wrist injury evaluated on the same day as the crash. Failure to do so can result in permanent devastating injuries that could have been fixed if timely treated.
Some broken bones, ligament injuries, tendon injuries, and nerve injuries need surgery within 24 hours to get the best possible result. For all other injuries, initial treatment often includes rest, ice, splinting and/or casting.
Do You Need to Hire an Injury Lawyer?
If your injury heals right away, you probably do not need an injury lawyer. However, if your injury takes a long time to heal or you have a serious or permanent injury, an auto accident attorney may be able to help you.