Packers' Matthews exemplifies severity of Bennett's fractures

October 18, 2013


Packers' Matthews exemplifies severity of Bennett's fractures

If you were to describe a Bennett's fracture in its simplest detail to someone who did not know much about orthopaedics or this specific type of injury, he or she might think that it would not necessarily be all that serious. The most basic (and reductive) explanation of it would be to say that it involves a broken thumb, which, indeed, is not always a major problem requiring extensive treatment. However, the specifics of Bennett's fractures make them extremely difficult for both patients and the orthopaedic experts tasked with providing treatment.

Recently, Clay Matthews, a high-profile star linebacker with the Green Bay Packers, discovered exactly how difficult a Bennett's fracture can be to deal with. According to the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, he suffered such an injury in a game against the Detroit Lions during the first week of October. Matthews will be out for several weeks while he recovers from an orthopaedic surgery he underwent immediately after sustaining the fracture. 

An example of a celebrity patient such as Matthews serves as a good opportunity for more people to learn about the nature and dangers of these injuries. Athletes, coaches and trainers involved with sports on a competitive level need to know all they can about the specific nature of Bennett's fractures, and put the appropriate athletic injury prevention measures in place to limit their occurrence.

Background of the fracture
According to Wheeless' Textbook of Orthopaedics, the Bennett's fracture is named for the physician who discovered it in 1882 - Edward Bennett, M.D. It is the most common type of thumb fracture, and involves a break in the base of the thumb metacarpal and into the carpometacarpal. The General Practice Notebook for U.K. medical personnel explains that this fracture is unstable due to loose bone fragments that can do further damage. It can also contribute to the development of osteoarthritis in the joint involved. As a result, it is considered unwise to excessively splint this injury. 

While the root cause of the injury - an axial blow to a flexed metacarpal - leads it to be characterized as resulting from physical violence, it is also relatively common in sports like football, rugby, basketball, boxing and mixed martial arts. Matthews' incident makes this clear. 

Matthews in recovery to avoid long-term damage
The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reported that some National Football League players who suffer broken thumbs might not wait to see if the injury is a Bennett's fracture, and simply return to play after receiving minimal treatment. Doing so can be not only extremely painful and damaging to on-field performance, but also a way for players to set themselves up for chronic, permanent problems like arthritis and a loss of grip strength.

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