Types of Wrist Fractures

A broken wrist is a general term used to broadly describe a fracture at the wrist. The wrist is made up of 8 carpal bones and the radius and ulna, which are the forearm bones that attach to the wrist. A wrist fracture occurs when a blunt force causes a break in the bone and limits mobility, gripping, and increased pain.

Image of the bone of the hand and wrist with labels to show the names of the bones.Anatomy of the Wrist and Hand.

 A wrist fracture is diagnosed with imaging to determine the extent of the injury and determine if conservative or surgical intervention is required. A fracture may be displaced or non-displaced, comminuted, or transverse. 

Fracture vs Break?

A fracture is the same as a broken bone.  There are several types of fractures; 

  • Comminuted
  • Transverse
  • Green stick
  • Compression
  • Segmental
  • Oblique
  • Spiral

A non-displaced fracture will require splinting/casting to allow proper healing then will be cleared for functional movements. A displaced fracture, in most cases, will require surgical intervention to reduce the out of place bone with plates and screws. According to Dr. Garry Kitay, "the scaphoid fracture is frequently misjudged to be a sprain, and can lead to significant pain and loss of function. There must be a high index of suspicion for this fracture whenever there is pain on the thumb side of the wrist following an injury.  Dr. Kitay is a board certified physician by the American Board of Orthopaedic Surgery and he practices at the JOI San Marco location. 

What Causes Wrist Fractures?

A wrist fracture may occur from different mechanisms including car accidents, falls, and during sport activities including gymnastics and football. Signs and symptoms that will arise including severe pain with any movement or gripping, swelling, tenderness, bruising, obvious deformity, and numbness/tingling in the fingers. We will take a look at some common wrist fractures.

Scaphoid Fracture or Wrist Break

Scaphoid fractures are typically misdiagnosed and missed due to similar symptoms of a wrist sprain. Scaphoid fractures that are not diagnosed and treated immediately have a higher chance of non-union and avascular necrosis or bone death.

X-ray image of a scaphoid fracture with arrow showing the location

A non-union occurs when the bone fragments heel incorrectly or incompletely. Avascular necrosis is when the fracture causes blood supply to be cut off to part of all of the bone causing tissue necrosis or bone death. 

The scaphoid has a poor blood supply and will take longer than normal to properly and fully heal. The patient may need to wear a cast or splint for up to 6 months with compliance of any restrictions.

Distal Radius Fracture or Forearm Break

The radius bone is the larger bone located on the side of your thumb. The radius is prone to fractures due 80% of the wrist joint surface that it covers and bears nearly the full load from a fall. There are two types of a distal radius fracture which includes a Colles fracture and smiths fracture. A Colles fracture, the most common, occurs when falling on an outstretched hand. A Smith's fracture is caused by the exact opposite of the Colles where extreme flexion causes the fracture to occur.

Wrist Fracture JOIWrist Fracture

Distal Ulnar Fracture or Forearm Fracture

In isolation, a distal ulna fracture is rare. They are often found in conjunction with a distal radius fracture. A significant amount of force and/or rotational trauma is typically associated with this type of injury. Injury to the triangular fibrocartilage complex (TFCC Tear) typically occurs and will require extensive treatment.

Related Links:

If you have a wrist or hand injury, the Jacksonville Orthopaedic Institute can help. To see a JOI Orthopedic Wrist and Hand Specialist, call (904)JOI-2000, schedule online, or click the link below. To schedule an appointment for physical therapy at 1 of the 12 JOI Rehab Centers, please call 904-858-7045.



By: Julia Guthart, Occupational Therapist/Certified Hand Therapist

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