Get a Leg Up on Summer Hand Injuries - Crozer-Keystone Health System - PA

Published on June 12, 2013

Get a Leg Up on Summer Hand Injuries

Springfield, Pa. – Ahh… summer. Time for baseball, gardening, biking, and… hand injuries? Even though hand injuries can happen any time, certain injuries are more common in the summer because people are more active and are doing things outdoors, notes Crozer-Keystone hand surgeon David S. Zelouf, M.D. Some injuries, like sports injuries, can be tough to prevent. Others can be avoided with simple safety practices and common sense.

Beware the Lawn Mower

Zelouf says that some of the most common summer hand injuries he sees – and the most avoidable – result from accidents involving landscaping equipment like lawn mowers and hedge trimmers.

One common mistake people make, he says, is cutting the grass in wet conditions and then placing their hand near the blade when the chute gets clogged. This often leads to significant finger and fingertip lacerations, even amputations. Even if a piece of equipment is turned off, it can have stored energy, and this is when accidents can happen, Zelouf notes.

“The moral of the story,” he says, “is to stay focused when using power tools and keep your hands away from rotating blades.” (If you must clear a clogged chute, use a stick or a tool and never your hands.)

If it’s too late and you find yourself faced with a serious injury, Zelouf advises that you apply direct pressure to the injured area and get to the emergency room as soon as possible.

Sometimes a laceration may not seem serious, but even cuts as small as a centimeter long can cause significant damage because the nerves and tendons on the hand are so close to the skin, Zelouf notes. If you are concerned or are experiencing numbness or decreased function, consult a hand surgeon.

Power-wash with Care

Another less common but potentially serious outdoor hazard involves hydraulic power washers that are used to clean outdoor decks and house exteriors, notes Guy Naradella Jr., M.D., chief of the Division of Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery at Crozer-Chester Medical Center.

“These injuries force high-pressure water and cleaning agents into the deep tissues of the hand and can cause devastating damage to tendons, nerves and other soft tissues,” Nardella says. “This usually requires emergency opening of the wound areas to prevent permanent tissue loss.”

Again, Nardella notes that the most effective way to avoid these injuries is to be very cautious when using outdoor power tools and always follow the product safety recommendations. 

Sports Injuries

As people become more active, summer also brings its share of sports injuries, such as fractures or ligament strains. 

For example, Taylor Hospital hand surgeon Gregory T. Tadduni, M.D., sees many patients with jammed fingers or torqued thumbs from playing baseball, basketball and softball. These may seem like just small mishaps, but they can lead to big problems – such as loss of motion, arthritis, or chronic instability – if improperly left untreated.

“If you have a jammed finger that doesn’t feel better in a couple of days, it should be examined or X-rayed by an orthopedist,” Tadduni says.

Fractures that are not displaced and are stable usually can be treated with a course of immobilization (for instance by taping two fingers together). But more significant fractures require surgical treatment, Nardella says. Surgery is usually followed by a period of rest and often occupational hand therapy to regain maximum function.

Fireworks

One other type of injury that comes to mind when we think of summertime involves fireworks.

According to the National Fire Protection Association, 8,600 fireworks-related injuries were treated in U.S. hospital emergency rooms in 2010. The majority (57%) of those injuries were reportedly to extremities – hand or finger (30%); leg (22%); and arm, shoulder, or wrist (5%).

Even though he does not see fireworks injuries frequently, Zelouf acknowledges that when he does encounter them, they can be devastating. To stay safe, people should leave fireworks displays up to the pros and should never handle fireworks on their own, Zelouf cautions.

Stay in the Game

Summer is one of the best times to get outside and enjoy the activities we love. Fortunately, with some basic safety practices, we can ward off some of the most serious hand injuries. Even for those unavoidable mishaps, we can usually get back in the game after the right treatment and a little time.

Crozer-Keystone’s orthopedics and plastic surgery specialists work “hand in hand” with the experts at The Philadelphia Hand Center to bring you the kind of care that is second to none. All in a familiar and convenient setting that’s close to home. To learn more about our team of hand specialists as well as our comprehensive hand and wrist services, locations and more, call 1-855-CK-HAND (1-855-254-4263) or visit http://hand.crozerkeystone.org.

 

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