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Covering sports injuries from the perspective of a certified athletic trainer and backed by analytics.

Breaking Down Russell Westbrook’s Hand Injury

Just two seasons after the Thunder lost just 26 games to injury all year, the team finds itself ravaged by injuries and facing an extended period of time without its two biggest stars.

With Kevin Durant already recovering from a Jones fracture in his foot, Russell Westbrook  is now expected to join his teammate on the sideline after he suffered a broken hand in the team’s loss to the Clippers.

Westbrook suffered a second metacarpal fracture in his right hand. Metacarpal fractures are very common in the NBA and have been detailed multiple times on InStreetClothes.com, most recently with Rajon Rondo.

To review, the metacarpals are the bones of the hand that bridge the carpal bones of the wrist and the bones of the fingers.  The tops of the metacarpals form the knuckles. As a result, these bones are susceptible to fracturing following a number of mechanisms of injury including a direct blow or an axial load.  Westbrook’s injury appears to have occurred when his hand was jammed into the back of teammate Kendrick Perkins.

During the 2013-14 season seven players, including Paul Pierce, Anthony Davis, and Spurs forwards Kawai Leonard and Danny Green, suffered fractured metacarpals. Two of these players, Patrick Beverley  and Ognjen Kuzmic suffered displaced fractures and needed surgery. Of these affected individuals only Green suffered a second metacarpal fracture.

The associated recovery time is dependent on several factors, the first being the specific bone involved. This is a small win for Westbrook. The second and third metacarpals, below the pointer and middle fingers, are tightly anchored to the carpal bones and are largely immobile. Contrastingly, the fourth and the fifth metacarpals are mobile to provide motion at the wrist and pinkie and generally require additional time to heal.

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The other major factor to consider is the nature of the break itself. If the fractured bone remains aligned, it is considered a non-displaced fracture and a conservative course of treatment can be utilized. If the position of the bone shifts, the break is considered displaced and surgery is often required to insure a proper union of the bone. The ISC database reveals that players that required surgery to fix metacarpal fractures average 20 games missed while those who do not go under the knife miss just 13 games.

For Westbrook, the best case scenario would be a non-displaced fracture. This injury would come with the lowest expected time off and give him an opportunity to potentially return early. Expect him to wear some sort of padding on the area when he is initially cleared to play. Initial reports estimate the All-Star guard  will miss between four and six week, though an official update from the Thunder is expected to come in the near future following further evaluation.

UPDATE: Westbrook underwent surgery Saturday and will be re-evaluated in four weeks.

2 thoughts on “Breaking Down Russell Westbrook’s Hand Injury”
  1. […] need surgery, that bodes well for Paul’s recovery, as Jeff Stotts (@rotowireATC) details in his great breakdown of metacarpal fractures after Russell Westbrook’s injury last season. The 2nd and 3rd metacarpals have less mobility, and […]

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