Common Hand Injuries of Soccer Goalies
If you play soccer as a goalie, you put your body in harm’s way when you attempt to prevent your opponents from scoring. Your efforts can take a toll on your body, especially your hands. Let’s take a closer look at some common hand injuries you may suffer as a goalie, why they happen, and how to prevent them.
Metacarpal and Phalanges Fractures
Fractures involving the metacarpal and phalanges, which are the scientific names for the hand and finger bones, are some of the most common sporting injuries. As a goalkeeper, you have a higher risk of getting a fracture than most athletes. These fractures usually happen when you try to stop a shot with your hands. Your hands absorb the impact of a fast-traveling ball and can cause your hand and fingers to move unnaturally. If the ball is too fast, or if it hits you at the wrong angle, it can break your bones.
These injuries can keep you sidelined for a substantial period, and you can expect to be out for an average of 26 days with a metacarpal fracture. Phalange fractures take more than twice as long to heal, with a median recovery time of 55 days. Stable injuries can heal with conservative management, such as a splint. However, you may require an operation to fix seriously broken bones. Metacarpal fractures at the base of the thumb don’t often heal with a splint and might require an operation to fix them.
Fractures of the scaphoid bone in the wrist are also common among goalkeepers. These injuries may happen when you’re stopping a shot, colliding with another player, or hitting the field when attempting to stop a goal. Doctors can miss these injuries because you might not feel any tenderness, and they’re tricky to see on X-rays. Delaying treatment reduces the blood supply to the bone, which may lead to nonunion of the bones. If the bones don’t join up, you might end up with arthritis in your wrist.
Doctors may diagnose a scaphoid fracture with a scaphoid X-ray or MRI scan. Waist and distal pole scaphoid fractures can heal in a cast after eight to 12 weeks. However, wrist stiffness may prevent you from playing for several weeks. Operative fixation can be a more effective approach for minor scaphoid injuries and is also recommended for acute proximal pole fractures, which may not heal correctly without operative intervention.
The radius bone is another wrist bone vulnerable to fractures during soccer games. You might fracture your radius when trying to make a save on a direct shot, and the ball pushes your hand backward towards your wrist. This type of fracture is most common in young adolescent goalies, especially when they use adult-sized balls instead of junior ones.
Usually, a radius fracture resolves itself after it has spent time in a plaster cast. Minor surgical intervention may help severe radius fractures to heal. On average, players lose 42 days of playing time due to a radius fracture.
Goalies may also experience dislocations, which is where the bones separate at the point where they meet at the joint. Finger dislocations, which are caused by the ball impacting the palm side of the finger when you’re reaching out to stop a goal, are the most common injuries. They’re usually minor concerns that just need strapping, but a dislocation might require surgery in rare cases. Surgery can also help you if you experience recurrent dislocations.
Scapholunate ligament injuries, which are a type of wrist dislocation, can also occur due to falls. As the X-rays usually appear normal, these injuries are often misdiagnosed as sprains. If you feel wrist pain and have normal X-rays, a wrist arthroscopy can confirm whether you have this more serious injury. Physiotherapy is the normal treatment for a minor scapholunate ligament injury. You can play again after a week or so with the aid of a splint for up to a month. If your injury is more stable, you may need an operation to repair it, which could take you out of the game for three months.
As a goalkeeper, you can also rupture the tendons in your hand when you punch the ball away, collide with other players, or crash into the goalposts. Ruptured tendons are fairly serious injuries that require a surgical fix. You should also expect a rehabilitation period before you get back on the field.
Mallet Finger Injuries
Mallet finger is another name for baseball finger, but you can also experience this tendon injury when the ball hits the tip of your finger or thumb and forces it into an unnatural position. Depending on how the ball hits you, you might have a single mallet finger injury or injure several fingers at once. It’s a fairly minor injury that can usually heal with the aid of a mallet splint. If that doesn’t work, you may need operative stabilization.
Collateral Ligament Injuries
You might get a collateral ligament injury, which is commonly called a sprain, in your fingers or wrist when you stop a ball, fall, or collide with other players or the goalpost. These injuries are usually pretty minor. If you take it easy, it’ll probably heal on its own. However, sprained thumbs can be a bit more serious. If you suffer a serious thumb sprain, you may need a surgical fix to return to the game.
How To Prevent Common Hand Injuries
There is no foolproof way to prevent hand injuries while you’re playing soccer, but the following strategies can reduce your risk:
- Strengthen your fingers by practicing throwing and catching drills and medicine ball exercises.
- Tape your fingers and wrists before each game for extra support. Taping isn’t necessary during practice, as it can prevent you from building muscle.
- Wear protective goalkeeper gloves with fingersaves when training and playing in a match.
- Play with balls that are suitable for your age.
- Encourage more experienced players to be cautious when shooting around you.
If your soccer game has taken a toll on your hands, come and see the professionals at The Hand and Wrist Institute. Our experienced team understands sports injuries and how to help you recover to get you ready for your next match in no time. Schedule an appointment online or call us at 855-558-4263 to learn how we can help you to manage your soccer injuries.
The Goalkeeper’s Anxiety! by Herve Simon is licensed with CC BY 2.0