Fractures of the long bones of the hand (the metacarpals) are a common injury of the hand. Punching motions are frequently the cause of hand fractures, and boxers are especially susceptible to this type of injury. Because of the importance of the hands in daily activities, it is vital to diagnose and properly treat these injuries.
Signs of a metacarpal fracture include swelling, tenderness, inability to move the finger, a depressed knuckle, or one finger crossing over another when forming a fist. If you suspect a fracture of the hand, you should see your doctor immediately. An X-ray and a physical exam to assess range of motion are required to diagnose the type and location of the fracture.
Many fractures can be realigned and set in a cast, brace, or splint without surgery. The cast will usually be left in place for three to four weeks while the fracture heals. Occasionally, surgery will be required to properly re-align the broken bone, especially in fractures involving puncture of the skin by bone fragments or crushing injuries. Proper alignment is imperative to insure that the bone heals with full functioning intact.