Carpal Tunnel Syndrome : Golf Injuries
Hand injuries in sport can be caused by a sudden awkward movement or direct trauma to the hand, but in golf they are much more likely to occur as a result of overuse or poor technique. Carpal Tunnel Syndrome is a condition that affects the nerves that run from the wrist to the hand.
Where is the Carpal Tunnel?
The carpal tunnel is a narrow channel that runs from the base of the wrist to the palm of the hand. The network of nerves and muscles within the carpal tunnel sends impulses to the hand from the brain, allowing it to move and experience sensations. The median nerve is the main nerve in the carpal tunnel that coordinates the movement of the fingers.
What Causes Carpal Tunnel Syndrome?
Carpal Tunnel Syndrome often occurs when tendons or muscles in the hand become inflammed. This causes the passageway to become restricted, which can lead to the median nerve becoming compressed. Golfers often suffer from Carpal Tunnel Syndrome as a result of sustaining another injury to the hand or wrist, either from overuse or direct trauma from a mis-hit. The swelling caused by the injury, such as a sprain or fracture, may exert excessive pressure on the median nerve. Female golfers are more likely to develop Carpal Tunnel Syndrome than male players, because generally the carpal tunnel is smaller in women and is therefore more vulnerable to becoming restricted.
What are the Symptoms of Carpal Tunnel Syndrome?
Sufferers will feel a burning, numb, or tingling sensation, especially in the thumb and index and middle fingers. It may also feel quite painful and normal hand movements will probably be restricted. It may be difficult to grip objects and the hand will feel much weaker.
How Can Carpal Tunnel Syndrome be Prevented?
Doing stretching exercises that improve the strength and flexibility of the wrist and hands will help to reduce the risk of developing this condition. Using golf clubs that are appropriate for your ability and making sure your grip is correct will also help to prevent Carpal Tunnel Syndrome. It is also important to ensure your hands get sufficient rest in between golf sessions and you shouldn’t continue to play if you already have a hand or wrist injury; playing with an injury makes you more vulnerable to developing this condition.
How is Carpal Tunnel Syndrome Treated?
The affected hand should be rested for at least a fortnight, possibly with the aid of a splint, which will immobilize the hand and prevent the condition from getting worse. Ice packs will also help to reduce inflammation. Certain medications will help to relieve the symptoms, such as ibuprofen, diuretics (water pills that are taken orally) and in some cases, cortisone injections.
If the symptoms persist for longer than 6 months, surgery will probably be required. There are two types of surgery for treating Carpal Tunnel Syndrome:
Open Release Surgery is carried out under local anaesthetic and involves making an incision in the wrist so that the carpal ligament can be cut into to enlarge the carpal tunnel. This is the most common type of carpal tunnel release surgery.
Endoscopic Surgery is an alternative method of treating carpal tunnel syndrome. It involves making two smaller incisions in the wrist and palm and inserting a camera into the carpal tunnel area. The surgeon is guided by the internal image of the carpal tunnel and is able to release it without opening up the hand. This type of surgery is much less invasive than the tradition open release method, there is less post-operative discomfort and the hand is fully functional again much more quickly.
Sufferers generally make a complete recovery from Carpal Tunnel Syndrome and are not at an increased risk of the condition recurring.
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