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Understanding Gymnast Wrist vs. TVCC Injury: A Guide for Performers and Athletes



Introduction


Our bodies are our instruments as performers, cheerleaders, aerialists, and acrobats. We push boundaries, defy gravity, and strive for excellence. However, this dedication often comes with the risk of injuries, two of which are Gymnast Wrist and Triangular Fibrocartilage Complex (TFCC), commonly known as TFCC injuries. Wrist pain can be a drag. In this blog, we'll delve into the signs, symptoms, differences, treatment options, and self-help methods for these injuries to empower you in your journey towards optimal performance and help you bounce back stronger.


What is a Gymnast Wrist:


Gymnast wrist, also known as distal radius physeal stress syndrome, is a common overuse injury prevalent among young athletes (think 10-14 years old): gymnasts, aerialists, and acrobats, whose growth plates haven't fully matured [1]. It is caused by repetitive stress on the growth plate of the wrist and is characterized by pain, swelling, and decreased range of motion. Performers may experience discomfort during weight-bearing activities or when executing manoeuvres wrist extension manoeuvres, such as handstands and cartwheels (Smith, 2017).


What is a TFCC Injury:


On the other hand, TFCC injury involves damage to the triangular fibrocartilage complex, a cartilage structure located on the ulnar side of the wrist. It can affect performers of all ages. Unlike Gymnast Wrist, TFCC injuries often result from sudden trauma or repetitive stress on the wrist, leading to pain, clicking, and instability, especially during gripping or rotating movements.


Distinguishing Gymnast Wrist from TFCC injuries:


It's crucial to differentiate between the two conditions as they require distinct treatment approaches (Jones et al., 2018). Both gymnast wrist and TFCC injuries can cause wrist pain, but there are some critical differences in how they present themselves:


Spotting the Signs: What to Look Out For


Treatment Options: Getting You Back on Track


The good news is that both gymnast wrist and TVCC injuries are treatable! Here's a quick rundown of what to expect:


Gymnast's wrist

TFCC Injury

Treatment

  • Rest from impact activities (crucial to allow the growth plate to heal)

  • Ice, compression, and elevation (RICE)

  • Activity modification

  • Physical therapy focuses on strengthening and flexibility exercises.

Depending on the severity, treatment might involve:

  • Splinting

  • Physical therapy: to improve mobility and strength, and pain management strategies [2]

It could also involve

  • Corticosteroid injections

  • Arthroscopic surgery

[depending on the severity and underlying pathology.]

Recurrence rate

Despite adequate management, Gymnast Wrist tends to recur, emphasizing the importance of proper technique and gradual progression in training (Johnson et al., 2020).

Despite appropriate treatment, recurrence rates remain relatively high, highlighting the need for thorough rehabilitation and ongoing preventive measures.




Protect yourself!


Both injuries can recur if you don't address the underlying causes. Here are some tips to help yourself:


  • Listen to your body: Pay attention to early warning signs such as pain or discomfort and modify your training accordingly. Don't push through pain. Rest when you need to, and gradually return to training.

  • Prioritize rest and recovery: Allow adequate time for rest between training sessions to prevent overuse injuries and promote tissue repair.

  • Warm-up and cool-down: Proper preparation helps prevent injuries by increasing blood flow and preparing your muscles for activity [5].

  • Strengthening: Strong wrists are less susceptible to injury. Ask your physio for exercises to target the muscles that support your wrist joint.

  • Proper technique: Work with your coach to refine your technique to minimize stress on your wrists.

  • Incorporate cross-training: Diversify your training regimen to reduce repetitive strain and enhance overall strength and mobility.

  • Seek professional guidance: Consult a qualified physiotherapist or healthcare provider for personalized assessment, treatment, and rehabilitation strategies tailored to your needs.


Conclusion:


In the world of performance and athleticism, injuries like Gymnast Wrist and TFCC are common hurdles requiring careful navigation. By understanding the signs, symptoms, differences, treatment options, and self-help methods for these injuries, you can empower yourself to take the best care of your body through this athletic journey.


If you're experiencing wrist pain, don't hesitate to contact a qualified physiotherapist for a personalized treatment plan.


Stay strong, stay safe, and keep on performing!


References:

  • King, D. S. (2008). Gymnastic wrist injuries. Current sports medicine reports, 7(5), 289-295. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/18772690/

  • Loeser, W. F., & Wright, T. M. (2010). Triangular fibrocartilage complex injuries: diagnosis and management. Journal of the American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons, 18(7), 787-795. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/30725740/

  • Rady Children's Hospital. (n.d.). Gymnast Wrist. Retrieved April 16, 2024, from https://scottishriteforchildren.org/news-items/gymnasts-wrist

  • American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons. (n.d.). Triangular Fibrocartilage Complex Injuries. Retrieved April 16, 2024, from https://www.aaos.org/videos/video-detail-page/22753__Videos

  • American Council on Exercise. (n.

  • Smith, J. (2017). Gymnast wrist: a clinical and biomechanical review. Journal of Sports Medicine and Physical Fitness, 57(1-2), 106-115.

  • Jones, A. et al. (2018). Triangular fibrocartilage complex injuries: current concepts in classification, diagnosis and management. Journal of Hand Surgery (European Volume), 43(8), 849-858.

  • Johnson, R. et al. (2020). Recurrent distal radius stress injury in gymnasts: a case series and literature review. Orthopedic Journal of Sports Medicine, 8(9), 2325967120950654.

 

Our blogs and articles are not designed to replace medical advice. If you have an injury, we recommend seeing a qualified health professional. We offer both in-person assessments and online consultations!


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