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What are Karate Injuries?

Karate, the Japanese martial art, has a high risk for many injuries due to its propensity for high intensity bodily stress. Karate is predominantly a striking art using punching, kicking, knee strikes, elbow strikes and open hand techniques. Soft tissue injuries, such as contusions and lacerations, are just as likely as injuries to the deeper musculoskeletal structure because of close quarters and frequent contact with opponents as well as falls.

Types of Karate Injuries

Martial arts utilize similar muscle groups in the body, which means that the injuries athletes may sustain from them tend to be similar in nature.

With a combination of chops, deflection of attacks, and throws, athletes may sustain damage to the hand, wrist, forearm, and or elbow. Fractures and dislocation remain the most common kind of injuries sustained while engaging in karate.

Common injuries seen in karate injuries include:

  • Bennett’s fracture: fracture of the base of the first metacarpal bone.
  • Boxer’s fracture: a break in the neck of the metacarpal.
  • Carpal instability: loss of normal alignment of the carpal bones.
  • Distal radius and ulna fractures: a break of the distal part of the radius bone or any part of the ulna.
  • Extensor carpi ulnaris tendinitis: inflammation of the extensor carpi ulnaris tendon.
  • Perilunate dislocation: perilunate fracture dislocations.
  • Sagittal band and extensor aponeurosis injuries: traumatic extensor tendon dislocation.
  • Elbow fracture: damage to the olecranon.
  • Metacarpophalangeal joint dislocation: dorsal metacarpophalangeal joint dislocation.
  • Interphalangeal joint dislocation: dislocation of the interphalangeal joints.
  • Phalangeal fracture and karate kid finger: finger fractures/dislocations and nerve injuries.
  • Scapholunate ligament tear: rupture of the main wrist ligament.

Characteristics and Clinical Presentation of Karate Injuries

Injuries sustained while practicing karate may be sustained while practicing or competing. Participants may experience pain when moving the affected region, which may include lifting, gripping, or twisting. Pain may be intermittent or constant depending on the severity of the injury.

Additionally, the injury may be more painful in the mornings after a period of immobilization. Athletes who notice a period of pain or experience acute pain following physical trauma are advised to seek immediate medical supervision.

The most commonly reported symptoms of karate injuries include:

  • Swelling and numbness or tingling
  • Stiffness
  • Weakness
  • Decreased range of motion

Causes of Karate Injuries

Many karate injuries are sustained from karate chops with a flawed technique or from overuse. Athletes may sustain contusions and scarring of ligamentous tissue, resulting in chronic pain and inability to properly operate the affected region.

These types of injuries are commonly found in those who play contact sports when the arm complexes absorb impact from external forces or comes into abrupt physical contact with other athletes.

Getting a Diagnosis for Karate Injuries

An experienced hand surgeon will perform a physical examination of the affected region, which may have swelling or an obvious deformity. An X-ray will be needed to provide a diagnosis of any suspected fractures or dislocations.

Because injuries to the bone often include damage to the surrounding soft tissue, an MRI may also be ordered to provide imagery of ligamentous tissue.

Treatment Options for Karate Injuries

After receiving a correct diagnosis, patients will be referred to a program of treatment best suited to the nature of their injury. Rest, anti-inflammatory medications, and moderation combined with technique correction are used to treat the affected region.

Surgical intervention may be required in some instances of severe injuries or when an injury does not heal properly.

Conservative Treatments

Many injuries of this nature can be treated with rest and anti-inflammatory medications. NSAIDs and non-steroidal anti-inflammatory medications may be prescribed for less serious injuries that will usually heal without surgical intervention.

In some cases, a corticosteroid injection may be administered to relieve painful swelling.

After receiving clearance from a hand specialist, patients may rest the affected by applying P.R.I.C.E principles:

 

  • Protect: the injured area should be protected with a splint or buddy-taping, best instituted with professional assistance.
  • Rest: the injured region  should be allowed to rest.
  • Ice: use a cool pack or ice bag to reduce swelling and pain.
  • Compression: wrapping the area prudently with a bandage may reduce the amount of swelling that can occur.
  • Elevate: elevating the region also helps control swelling by using gravity to limit and reduce the amount of fluid that goes to the affected area.

 

Surgical Treatments

Injuries require surgical intervention if the ligamentous tissue is damaged or if the injury does not respond to conservative methods. Some injuries require pair of ligamentous tissue, improperly aligned fractures, or excision of ectopic bone or scar tissue. Many surgical procedures may be performed arthroscopically, which is a minimally invasive technique. In cases of acute or repetitive injuries, resulting in scar tissue or damaged bones, cartilage, and ligaments. Surgical intervention may help to optimize mobility and comfort.

Preventing an Injury while Practicing Karate

Resting between competitions and after practice can improve chronic injuries and prevent future accidents. In order to reduce injury while practicing karate, patients ought to prepare thoroughly.

These measures include:

  • Getting a physical exam before participating.
  • Practice under direct supervision from an experienced teacher.
  • Proper warm-up and cool-down routines.

Prognosis for Karate Injuries

Injuries that can be treated with immobilization and rest may require a brief resting period or modified activities. Patients who require surgical intervention may require an immobilization period followed by physical therapy to maximize mobility and minimize discomfort.

Physical therapy may be required for an additional 2-4 months depending on the severity of the injury.

Surgical intervention may be successful if performed in conjunction with rehabilitation, but athletes should always seek medical clearance from their hand surgeon before resuming athletic activities.

If You Believe You Have a Karate Injury Contact HandSport Surgery Institute

Please contact us as soon as possible to schedule an appointment with our talented team. People experiencing karate injuries should be evaluated to try and prevent further injury and mobility issues.

If you have been injured, it’s important to be evaluated by a highly skilled professional. Call Drs. Mark and Jason Pruzansky at 212-249-8700 to schedule an appointment, obtain an accurate diagnosis, and start to restore comfort to your hand.

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