WHAT IS A BOXER’S FRACTURE (HAND)?
A Boxer’s fracture is a break or crack in the 5th metacarpal (small finger side of the hand), usually due to punching something or someone with a closed fist. The metacarpal bones are the long slender bones which connect your wrist to your fingers and are roughly at the level of your palm. There is one metacarpal for each finger. Boxer’s fractures are one of the more common hand fractures.
The vast majority of Boxer’s fractures occur due to punching something or someone with a closed fist.
SIGNS AND SYMPTOMS
Symptoms of a Boxer’s fracture usually include one or more of the following:
- Hand pain and tenderness to touch (over the small finger side of the hand)
- Hand swelling
- Hand bruising
- Hand pain / grinding when making a fist
- Hand deformity (fingers may not line up normally when making a fist)
IS THERE A TEST FOR BOXER’S FRACTURES?
Yes! Often fractures are obvious on physical examination, but severe sprains and contusions can also look and feel very much like a Boxer’s fracture. X-rays usually offer definitive diagnosis and help with treatment planning.
Suspected hand fractures warrant emergent treatment if you are experiencing hand numbness and tingling, severe or “tight” swelling, significant deformity of the hand or any open wounds around the hand (possible open or compound fracture). Even without these warning signs, it is best to seek urgent treatment as the results of delayed treatment of metacarpal fractures can lead to undesirable outcomes such as nonunion (won’t heal) or malunion (heals crooked).
Splinting and casting are the mainstays of nonoperative treatment of metacarpal fractures that are stable and not badly displaced (out of alignment). Occasionally the fracture needs to be numbed up and “set” straight. Cast treatment usually lasts 4-6 weeks.
Surgical repair of metacarpal fractures is required when the fracture pieces are unstable (won’t stay in place), or not healing properly with cast treatment. A regional block numbing of the arm is performed, and if the metacarpal can be set straight, metal wires are placed through the skin and into the bone to keep it straight while it is healing. If the fracture is severe, it may be necessary to make a small incision over the back of the hand to restore the alignment of the broken metacarpal directly and hold the pieces in place with a small metal plate and screws. Sometimes, a second surgery is performed after the bone has healed, in order to remove the plate and screws if they are bothersome under the skin or causing stiffness.
READY TO CONFIRM A DIAGNOSIS AND FIX THE PROBLEM OR JUST WANT TO LEARN MORE?
Our Board-Certified Orthopaedic Hand and Wrist Surgeons are here to help! They can often diagnose the problem in one visit, and get you started with a treatment plan. We offer a wide variety of both nonoperative and operative treatment options.
This content is not a substitute for expert medical advice or diagnosis and is for educational purposes only.