Putting your hands in front of you to break a fall can bend your wrist backwards, putting immense strain on the ligaments that hold together the bones of your wrist. This can result in a wrist sprain. Therefore, sports that put you at risk of falling, such as figure skating, gymnastics, skiing, skateboarding and hockey, also increase the risk of wrist sprain.
If you’ve sprained your wrist, you’ll feel pain right away, and you might also feel tenderness, swelling or a burning sensation. When you move your wrist, the pain may worsen, and you might also hear a popping sound.
To evaluate whether you have a wrist sprain, your doctor will examine your arm and wrist, and may also order an X-ray, computed tomography (CT) scan, or magnetic resonance image (MRI) to rule out other causes of your pain, such as a broken bone, and to see whether the ligament is actually torn.
Depending on the severity of your sprain, you may simply need to wear a wrist splint to immobilize your wrist for seven to 10 days. If your ligament is partially or fully torn, surgery may be required for your wrist to heal correctly. This could be a crucial step, because incorrect healing can cause long-lasting, lingering pain in the wrist, and can also predispose you to injuring your wrist again. After you’ve healed from surgery, you’ll likely need to perform stretches and exercises to regain full use of your wrist. It can take anywhere from a few weeks to 10 weeks for your wrist to heal fully.
In the future, skiers can prevent wrist sprains by letting go of ski poles when falling to avoid twisting the wrist. Athletes should wear protective gear such as protective tape or a splint when participating in sports that increase the risk of falling or when walking or running in slippery or wet conditions.