Thursday, 12 March 2015

Good enough for Warnie? Good enough for you.

Should be in the Olympics
It’s hard to know where hand therapy fits in to the lexicon of sports injury management. At first glance, depending perhaps on your background, it would seem natural that it be considered essential. Try and think of a sport that doesn't involve your hands or wrists or elbows or shoulders in some way. The Inuits seem to have a few covered, but haven’t yet taken the world stage by storm with leg wrestling and high kick competitions. There’s also the great English sport of toe wrestling, which perhaps their miserable World Cup cricketers are more suited to.

NFL Hall of Famer Ronnie Lott had the tip of his left little finger amputated
 so he could keep playing. Treatable swan neck too.
If you discount those athletic pursuits like running and jumping, any sport that demands equipment, or has a ball, also demands good to normal hand function. So why is it I still see, even in the professional sportsperson managed by an in-house rehabilitation team, severe injury that is not treated and that will almost certainly lead to long term pain and dysfunction? It’s because if you can run, you can play. “Suck it up Princess, we’ll tape that digit up and send you out after an injection or two!” 

NFL wide receiver and future Hall of Famer Torry Holt.
Can you pick which finger is stuffed? 
I can appreciate that sentiment at a professional level. I've been an advocate for returning elite sportsperson back to sport before I’d let a layperson with a similar injury return to a labouring job. In doing that, I don’t believe I am maintaining the passive aggressive ignorance that has historically governed hand injury at that level. Rather I do it because I know that that athlete has every possible diagnostic and rehabilitative process at their disposal, and that if I've done my job well, I’m confident they can play protected. It’s when these same processes are available but not utilised that I get cranky. 

The problem is compounded when school kids are encouraged to play through a recently dislocated finger having been advised by someone who doesn't know better, that they’ll be fine. Or when the manual worker, who strained his thumb ulnar collateral ligament in a weekend game of footy, doesn't seek treatment for it because his team mates tell him he’s soft, further damages it at work, and now needs surgery that puts him out of footy and without a payslip.

Making those fat digits work...
...and work again. Miss you Warnie.

By not hiding that I work with professional sports-persons, I am in no way showing off. I am teaching my weekend warrior patients and the school kids that come through after cricket, gym or basketball that their injury is legitimate, should not be ignored, and needs treatment from someone who knows what they are doing. If hand therapy is good enough for Warnie (didn't treat him, but know who did), it should be good enough for everyone else. 

Look after those fingers,