OBJECTIVE: To establish a profile of sports hand injuries requiring treatment in an urban accident and emergency (A&E) department, and to determine the extent to which these injuries resulted in morbidity. METHODS: A one year prospective observational study at the Royal Victoria Infirmary, Newcastle upon Tyne. All patients presenting to the A&E department between 29 July 1995 and 28 July 1996 with a hand injury sustained during sporting activity and who received follow up by A&E or plastic surgery units were enrolled. Patients were contacted by telephone or post at median of four months after injury (range two to 13) for their assessment of the outcome. RESULTS: 262 cases were enrolled into the study. The median age for males was 21 years (range 7 to 55) and for females 16 (range 9 to 40). Follow up data were obtained by telephone in 206 (79%), and by letter in a further 26 (10%). Fractures were the commonest injury (68%), followed by soft tissue injuries (20%) and dislocations (11%). The thumb was the site affected most commonly overall, and in 10 of 17 ski related injuries; next most frequent sites were little and ring fingers. Males sustained 79% of the injuries, and 54% of these occurred during football. Netball/basketball caused 63% of female injuries. Follow up indicated that mild impairment in terms of pain, stiffness, or deformity was common (45%), while the incidence of moderate pain or serious problems was 11%. CONCLUSIONS: Sporting injuries to the hand commonly require treatment in the A&E department. Telephone/postal follow up of such injuries indicates that significant short term and longer term impairment of function may result. Suitable target areas for injury prevention are secondary schools, football (in males), and netball/basketball.
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