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Crush Your Fitness Goals, Not Your Wrists: Tips for Injury Prevention

When it comes to staying active, you take steps to protect your body. You warm up, watch your form and gear up to keep your knees, elbows and head safe. But what about your wrists?

Although our wrists may be small compared to other joints, they play an important role in many physical activities. From lifting weights to performing yoga poses, our wrists bear a lot of stress and strain. That’s why understanding how to prevent and manage sports-related wrist injuries is as important as protecting other joints and body parts.

To shed some light on this topic, we spoke with Anuj Netto, MD, a hand surgeon with Banner Health, who shared valuable insight into sports-related wrist injuries and steps you can take to prevent them. 

Common sports-related wrist injuries

Wrist injuries stemming from overuse, overtraining, impact or trauma are common, especially among athletes in golf, tennis, football, basketball and soccer. These injuries can be categorized into three main areas: muscles and tendons, bones and joints. 

Muscles and tendons

“The most common injury I see are injuries to the muscles and tendons surrounding the wrist joint,” Dr. Netto said. “At the wrist level, muscles turn into tendons for their attachment to bone, which can be a source for overuse injuries.”

These injuries tend to result in inflammation, which often turns into tendonitis. Common types of tendonitis include De Quervain tenosynovitis, which affects the tendons on the thumb side of the wrist, and extensor carpi ulnaris (ECU) tendonitis, located on the pinky side of the wrist. 

Both De Quervain and ECU can impact daily activities. You may notice pain and swelling around the base of the thumb or pinky and have difficulty grabbing and holding onto objects as simple as a cup, pen or frying pan.


Injuries to the bone almost always involve some impact or trauma to the wrist. The most common wrist bone injury is a wrist fracture (broken bone), typically caused by a fall onto an outstretched hand.

“You will usually be aware you’ve broken your wrist, either because you heard the bone break or your wrist appears deformed,” Dr. Netto said. “However, simple falls resulting in swelling and pain can sometimes be confused for a sprain when it is actually a fracture.”


Injuries to the wrist joints can involve damage to the cartilage, ligaments or other soft tissues. The most common injury is a wrist sprain. 

“A wrist sprain occurs when the ligaments surrounding the joints that stabilize the wrist are stretched or torn,” Dr. Netto said. “This most commonly occurs after a fall on an outstretched hand and usually includes pain and swelling.”

When more than one ligament is torn, it can lead to more weakness and instability in the wrist. If there is enough force at the time of the injury, it could lead to a dislocation.

Helping your wrist heal

The road to recovery depends on the type and severity of the injury. While surgery is needed for fractures and dislocations, rest, icing, pain relievers, activity modifications, braces, splints, casts and physical therapy may be used as treatment options for other injuries.

Your health care provider will determine the best option, considering short- and long-term damage, stiffness and deformities. Follow their recommendations closely and avoid returning to strenuous activities too soon to prevent re-injury.

"If someone rushes back to full activity before fully regaining range of motion and strength in their wrist after a fracture, they risk injuring their elbow or shoulder if they fall. This is because they might instinctively protect their healing wrist by bracing the fall with their elbow or shoulder," Dr. Netto said. 

How can I tell the difference between minor and serious injuries?

While minor sprains or strains may improve with rest, ice, bracing and pain relievers, more severe injuries such as fractures, ligament tears or obvious deformities require more care.

“If simple tasks such as moving your fingers or wrist or touching different areas of the wrist cause a lot of pain, these are concerning signs that need to be looked at by a health care provider,” Dr. Netto said. “At the very least, imaging scans would be recommended.”

Prevention tips

It’s not always possible to prevent wrist injuries, but Dr. Netto shared some basic tips that may offer you some protection:

  • Warm up properly: Always start your workouts with a proper warm-up to prepare your muscles and joints for activity. Use wrist-specific stretches and gentle movements to improve flexibility and range of motion.
  • Use proper technique: Whether lifting weights or performing yoga poses, focus on maintaining the correct form to reduce strain on your wrists. Engage in passive stretch and hold exercises to increase flexibility and prevent muscle and tendon injuries.
  • Gradually increase intensity: Avoid sudden spikes in activity level and gradually increase the intensity and duration of your workouts to allow your wrists to adapt. When it comes to resistance training, prioritize endurance over the amount of weight lifted. Do higher repetitions with lighter weights to build strength and resilience in your wrists.
  • Wear supportive gear: Consider wrist guards, gloves and athletic tape during high-impact activities like skateboarding, hockey and football to provide extra support and stability. These can help reduce the risk of overuse injuries and protect your wrists during demanding workouts.
  • Listen to your body: Pay attention to any warning signs, such as pain or discomfort, and don’t push through the pain. Give your wrist time to rest and recover and modify activities to prevent overstraining.


Don’t let wrist pain hold you back from achieving your fitness goals. If you live for your favorite sport but hand or wrist pain hinders your performance, see your health care provider or a Banner Health specialist. They can address the root cause of your wrist issue and get you back to doing what you love.   

For more related blogs, check out:

Fitness Orthopedics Sports Medicine