Staying Healthy Post Hurricane Harvey

As Texans begin to restore and rebuild following one of the most devastating storms in US history, we thought it would be a good time to talk about some of the health concerns that exist in this post flood environment and precautions everyone can take to stay healthy.

Harmful Elements in Flood Waters                                     Healthy Post Hurricane Harvey

Flood waters contain a variety of potentially harmful elements, many of which linger even after water begins to recede.  Aside from sheets of fire ants, snakes and other potential harmful critters, sharp metal bits, nails and glass shards are often prevalent and linger in debris.

In a recent interview with the Washington Post, Peter Hotez, dean of the National School of Tropical Medicine at Baylor College of Medicine, explained that sewage systems merge with flooding rain, introducing infectious human waste to streets and into flooded homes. What remains as sludge and a dirty film permeates everything it once washed over.  While the waters recede, the infectious elements remain and must be treated with caution (1).

And while it is not easy to predict which microbes will cause the greatest problems, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reported 30 cases of MRSA, an antibiotic-resistant staphylococcus bacterium, in a group of New Orleans evacuees following Hurricane Katrina in September 2005. “Vibrio” pathogens, also known as “flesh-eating” bacteria, sickened two dozen people and killed six – in addition to reports of heat and infection-related skin rashes and red marks associated with biting mites (2).

Other Post Storm Concerns                                                                                             

The harmful material contained in flood waters and the contaminated and dangerous debris left in its wake are common concerns following a flooding storm (3), but there are also other lesser known concerns and areas of caution.  These include:

Scientific research is increasingly reporting the significant role that stress plays in our overall health – from a weakened immune system predisposing us to a host of illnesses, to increased risk of musculoskeletal injuries and conditions traditionally associated with physical stress only.  The type of stress that can come with the anticipation of such a storm, its duration and damaging aftermath is capable of threatening the health of an individual in ways many may not realize.  Referred to as “psychosocial” factors (frustration, dissatisfaction, depression and despair), the resulting stress has shown to induce physiological responses that can contribute to the development of musculoskeletal disorders (4).

Additionally, food and water quality that is compromised during power outages can challenge the healthiest among us if not approached with caution (5). Upper respiratory disorders associated with the rapidly growing mold following a Texas flood are a big concern.  Exposure to mold spores can prompt a rise in asthma and other respiratory illnesses.  The close proximity of individuals housed in shelters or working shoulder to shoulder in cleanup efforts can perpetuate respiratory illnesses and other communicable diseases.

Cuts and lacerations resulting from and/or exposed to flooded debris are particularly concerning to physicians.  The skin is the largest organ of the human body and should be protected as such.  Any opening creates vulnerability to not only the affected area but the entire body, particularly when exposed to potentially harmful microbes often found in flood water and debris as described earlier.

Reducing Risks and Staying Healthy Post Hurricane Harvey

There are several precautions that flood victims and those helping in their recovery should do to ensure everyone stays healthy post Hurricane Harvey.  These include:

 

  • Tetanus booster shots – Texas health officials urge people post Hurricane Harvey to get a tetanus booster shot to protect themselves against disease potentially entering the body through cuts/lacerations, unless one is current with their tetanus immunization (within 10 years). Even seemingly insignificant damage to a nail bed or cuticle should be treated as any other cut.
  • Proper garments and supplies – Clothing protecting arms and legs from flood sludge and lingering debris is strongly encouraged, along with rugged gloves for debris removal, rubber gloves for cleaning affected areas/items and face masks to minimize inhalation of potentially harmful elements.
  • Proper care of cuts/lacerations/skin rash – It is extremely important when working in flood environments to properly protect existing cuts and quickly clean and care for those occurring during cleanup. Risk of skin rashes resulting from the combination of sewage, chemicals and Houston heat can be reduced with the proper garments.
  • Adequate rest, relaxation – While it is difficult for those working to rebuild their homes and quickly reclaim their lives to contemplate taking time for themselves, it is a critical part of maintaining health and well-being. The rebuilding process for many will be a lengthy one requiring strong, healthy individuals.  Adequate rest, break from exposure to irritants and moments of relaxation/destressing can reduce risk of fatigue-related accidents/injuries, optimize mental outlook and maximize physical endurance.

 

When an injury is sustained or a respiratory or gastrointestinal irritation seems to linger, it is important to see a physician.  Postponing care can in some cases complicate an otherwise simple treatment or solution – and delay all recovery efforts.
Our health is truly one of our greatest assets. Let’s protect it!

 

 

References:

  1. The Health Dangers from Hurricane Harvey’s Floods and Houston’s Chemical Plants. Washington Post, September 1 2017.
  2. Infectious Disease and Dermatologic Conditions in Evacuees and Rescue Workers after Hurricane Katrina – Multiple States. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). August – September, 2005.
  3. Stay Out of Flood Water, Texas Health Officials Urge. NPR – Houston Public Media News. August 28, 2017.
  4. Musculoskeletal Disorders – Psychosocial Factors. Canadian Centre for Occupational Health and Safety (CCOHS). Last updated August 13, 2012.
  5. Food and Water Safety during Power Outages and Floods. U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. FDA U.S. Food and Drug Administration. Last updated August 25, 2017.

 

Other Educational Links

 

 

It’s No Fish Tale – These Uncommon Hand & Upper Extremity Fishing Injuries Can Really Happen!

Located on the Gulf of Mexico and home to hundreds of lakes, it’s no wonder that the Texas coast is the playground to fishing enthusiasts far and wide.

Barracuda

unhook stingray2But even the seasoned sportsman can fall victim to some unlikely fishing injuries affecting the hand and upper extremity. In fact, fishermen (and women) put themselves in danger every time they come into contact with marine life – unpredictable behavior/aggressive and often forceful nature of a catch, prevalence of less commonly treated bacteria, unsanitary tools/equipment, poor wound care – all contributing to some common and not so common injuries that hand specialists see in a region like the Texas Gulf Coast.

Some common fishing injuries and conditions with which a Texas hand surgeon is all too familiar include:

fillet_2Many of these common injuries and conditions are treated non surgically and follow the same treatment protocol as any other patient with the same diagnosis – regardless of the cause.

Uncommon Hand & Upper Extremity Fishing Injuries and Conditions

Though there is very little that surprises a hand specialist practicing in “sportsman’s paradise,” an unusual injury associated with fishing will occasionally make its way to a Texas medical clinic.

Some of these uncommon injuries and conditions include:

  • Sting Ray Laceration
  • Fish Bite / Impalement
  • Fish Handler’s Disease / Bacterial Infection
  • Lodged Fish Bones, Fin Spine 

Unlike other injuries that break the skin, these types of fishing injuries are particularly concerning.  Fish and other marine life carry bacterial infections within their bodies, as well as on their skin, which can affect humans if certain precautions are not taken immediately. Some types of bacteria found in marine life are not commonly seen and do not respond to conventional antibiotics frequently used for infections.

Additionally, some marine life such as the Sting Ray utilize defense mechanisms that require special attention when used against a fisherman.

Sting Ray Laceration
While many sting ray injuries involve an inadvertent encounter between a foot or other lower extremity and a sting ray’s barb, some have occurred to the hand or wrist while trying to remove a sting ray from a fishing net or line.

These types of lacerations require more than bandaging.  Not only do sting ray barbs pierce like a weapon, all sting rays are armed with at least one serrated venomous spine at the base of their whip-like tail.  Short-tail sting rays have two tail spines: a slender spike in front of a large, jagged bayonet (1).

In addition to possible damage to muscle, tendons and nerves that can occur from the physical impalement of a sting ray barb, its venom is comprised of many different substances that can cause tissue to break down and die.
Some of the symptoms that Sting Ray venom can cause include:

 

  • Immediate and severe pain radiating up the affected limb
  • Bleeding and swelling in the affected area
  • Sweating
  • Faintness, dizziness and weakness
  • Low blood pressure
  • Salivation, nausea, vomiting, diarrhea
  • Headache
  • Shortness of breath (2)

 

Medical attention is recommended for all sting ray injuries.  Minimally, the wound will be cleaned with warm water to remove the venom and a tetanus booster given if it has been more than five years since the last tetanus booster. Tetanus prevention is required if the patient has never had a tetanus vaccination.  Antibiotics may also be required, and depending on the severity of the injury and amount of damage sustained (often the result of the delay in seeking treatment), surgical intervention to repair soft tissue damage and/or a period of rehabilitation may be required to restore strength to the injured limb (2).

Fish Bite and Impalement
While not every fish injury comes with a venomous double blow, the high risk of bacterial infection and soft tissue damage can be just as serious.  Many fish have sharp teeth, tails and pointed features that can easily break the skin.  Wrestling the unwilling catch onto the boat or beach can leave some sportsmen a bit worse for the wear.

 

Aside from the bacterial concerns that come with marine life, the forceful impact from a sharp feature of the fish can result in soft tissue damage that may require surgical repair and/or months of rehabilitation to restore hand and upper extremity function – as the hand alone is comprised of approximately 34 muscles, 120 known ligaments, and 50 nerves!

 

These types of deep puncture wounds or lacerations in the hand are also at high risk of infection and should be monitored closely.  A delay in the appropriate treatment can lead to complicated tenosynovitis and horseshoe abscess.  Additionally, marine life bacterial infections resulting from Mycobacterium marinum (M. marinum) do not respond to some conventional antibiotic treatment such as amoxicillin (3).

Fish Handler’s Disease
Not every fishing-related Mycobacterium marinum infection is the result of an obvious injury/wound.  A condition known as Fish Handler’s Disease can impact those frequently handling fish and generally affects the hands.  Any inconspicuous cut or small opening on the skin can allow the bacteria to enter the body.  The bacteria’s inability to proliferate in the warm body confines it to the affected area.

 

Common symptoms include swelling, tenderness, and bluish-purple spots. Fish Handler’s Disease is treated with special antibiotics used specifically for this type of bacterial infection.  Recovery can take months.

Lodged Fish Bones, Fin Spine
Occasionally in the handling of fish a fish bone or fin spine can lodge in the hand. Though this may not be painful or immediately worrisome to the injured party, these types of injuries are concerning.  Such injuries often leave residual fragments of foreign organic matter in the soft tissue, which can cause secondary infections such as Staphylococci and Streptococci (4).

 

Typically, x-rays are used first to try and identify a foreign body in the tissue, though are not always successful in doing so.  An MRI may be indicated to identify fine fin spines and tiny bones lodged in the body’s tissue. The surgical removal of the foreign body is important.  Failure to seek and remove the foreign body may lead to persistence of infection (4). Multiple surgical procedures may be required, and the patient is put on antibiotics to prevent infection. Physical therapy may be required after surgery to regain mobility of the hand.

 

If this type of injury goes untreated it can result in permanent disability and hospitalization for infection. Though the area may look as if it has healed, but is still tender, swollen, discolored, or abnormal in any way, individuals are urged to see a hand specialist.

 

Prevention and Precaution
Understanding the unique aspects of the marine life occupying the waters you’re sporting and utilizing protective gloves and garments while fishing can go a long way in injury prevention.  As the largest organ of the human body, our skin serves as a protective barrier.  When any area is compromised, our entire body is compromised. Individuals with other health conditions, such as diabetes or immune deficiency disorders should be particularly cautious and consult a hand specialist for proper wound care.

If not addressed properly, even seemingly minor fishing injuries can result in serious infection, lingering weakness or permanent disability – inhibiting participation in the sport you love.

 

References

 

The Vitamin D Deficiency Dilemma and What It Means to Bones…and Our Health

Shedding some light on the high and low of it

Vitamin D deficiency has become a growing trend in the United States and is now prompting physicians in different areas of specialty to test Vitamin D levels in patients.Our Need for Vitamin D

While low Vitamin D levels have always played an important role in orthopedics, insufficient levels are now also linked to a wide range of other health issues – from Diabetes and Cardiovascular Disease to cancer (1).

Measuring Vitamin D status in blood levels of a form known as 25-hydroxyvitamin D [25(OH)D] has become an important part of health screenings.

While orthopedic specialists treating patients for a bone fracture today routinely test Vitamin D levels in patients, increasingly physicians in other areas of specialty are including such tests for their patients as well.

A Growing Trend in Vitamin D Deficiencies

A growing trend in low Vitamin D levels among a broad range of ages has prompted the National Institutes for Health (NIH) and Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) to assess possible causes, further exploring the link between Vitamin D in not only bone health but other diseases as well.  The growing trend, which is seen not only in the United States but worldwide, has been called a pandemic and prompted researchers to launch studies into the causes and the implications on overall health (2).

It is believed that lifestyle changes, growth in obesity, increase use of medication and changes in diet (reduction in nutrient rich foods and increase in processed, packaged nutrient deficient) are all contributors to this trend.

While some study results have caused daily intake recommendations to increase from 200 IU to 400 to 600 IU to address the deficiencies, many believe much higher amounts are required (4,000 to 10,000 IU daily) to reach optimal levels and achieve maximum health benefits.  Recommended daily intake and appropriate supplementation for those showing a deficiency continue to evolve. Recommendations established by the Institute of Medicine, 2011 are used as a general guideline. Ongoing research will continue to fuel this discussion.

Vitamin D and its Role in Bone Health

Vitamin D is a fat-soluble vitamin, which is essential for maintaining mineral balance in the body. Its most active form in humans is Vitamin D3 (cholecalciferol), which can be synthesized in the skin with exposure to ultraviolet-B (UVB) radiation from sunlight.

Vitamin D3 conversion and use within our body.

Vitamin D3 metabolism and use within our body.

Plants can synthesize ergosterol by ultraviolet light, which is converted to vitamin D2 (ergocalciferol), but is a less active form of vitamin D (less than 30% of Vitamin D3) (3).

Vitamin D is necessary for the proper absorption of calcium, which together have shown to reduce risk of osteoporosis, assist in the healing of bone fractures and decrease risk of future bone breaks. Vitamin D has other roles in the body as well, including modulation of cell growth, neuromuscular and immune function and reduction of inflammation (4).

When exposure to UVB radiation is insufficient, adequate intake of vitamin D from the diet (Vitamin D-fortified foods and supplements) is essential for optimal health.

After Vitamin D is consumed in the diet or synthesized in the skin, the biologically inactive form then enters the circulation and is transported to the liver, where 25(OH)D is formed.  This is the major circulating form of vitamin D and the indicator of vitamin D status in the body. Increased exposure to sunlight or increased dietary intake of Vitamin D-enriched foods and/or Vitamin D3 supplements increases blood levels of 25(OH)D, making the blood 25(OH)D concentration an effective indicator of Vitamin D nutritional status.

Causes of Vitamin D Deficiency

While studies continue to explore possible causes of the widespread Vitamin D deficiency, a number have already been identified.  Some are the result of societal changes such as increased use of sun blocks/sun screens for fear of skin cancer (limiting unprotected sun exposure) and changes in our diet (processed, nutrient deficient foods versus nutrient and Vitamin D-rich foods). Both of which have gradually reduced the amount of Vitamin D intake we receive.

 Other possible causes of Vitamin D Deficiency include:

1.) Obesity

Some studies suggest that a higher BMI leads to lower 25(OH) D (4). Greater amounts of subcutaneous fat sequesters more of the vitamin and alter its release into circulation (5).

2.) Naturally dark-skinned individuals

Greater amounts of the pigment melanin in the epidermal layer (resulting in darker skin) reduces the skin’s ability to produce Vitamin D from sunlight.

3.) Certain Medications

Corticosteroid medications such as prednisone (often prescribed to reduce inflammation) can reduce calcium absorption and hinder Vitamin D metabolism. Other weight-loss, cholesterol-lowering and epileptic seizure medications have also been implicated in reduced calcium absorption and Vitamin D levels.

4.)  Age

As we age, our skin cannot synthesize Vitamin D as efficiently. The elderly are also likely to spend more time indoors, leading to inadequate intakes of the vitamin.

Increasing Vitamin D Levels

While it is difficult today to reach the recommended levels of Vitamin D without supplementation, below are some of the best sources that may reduce the quantity of supplements required.

Calcium and Vitamin D-rich foods can help support strong bones, decrease risk of disease.

Calcium and Vitamin D-rich foods can help support strong bones, decrease risk of disease.

  •  Unprotected sun exposure (10 – 20 minutes several times a week depending on skin color and geographical location).
  • Vitamin D-rich foods such as fatty fish (salmon, tuna, mackerel), beef liver, cheese and egg yolks.
  • Vitamin D-fortified foods such as milk, orange juice, margarine and butter.
  • Vitamin K2, which is linked toimproved use of Vitamin D3 and calcium (6).

 

References

  1. Holick MF. Vitamin D: importance in the preventioin of cancers, type 1 diabetes, heart disease, and osteoporosis.  Am J Clin Nutr. 2004;79(3):362-371.
  2. Holick MF. The vitamin D Deficiency pandemic and consequences for nonskeletal health: mechanisms of action. Mol Aspects Med. 2008;29(6):361-8.
  3. Armas LA, Hollis BW, Heaney RP. Vitamin D2 is much less effective than vitamin D3 in humans. J Clin Endocrinol Metab. 2004;89(11):5387-5391.
  4. Institutes of Health, Office of Dietary Supplements – https://ods.od.nih.gov/factsheets/VitaminD-HealthProfessional/ .
  5. Vimaleswaran KS, Berry DJ, Lu C et al. Causal relationship between obesity and Vitamin D status:  bi-directional Mendelian randomization analysis of multiple cohorts. 2013 – http://journals.plos.org/plosmedicine/article?id=10.1371/journal.pmed.1001383.
  6. National Institutes of Health, Office of Dietary Supplements – https://ods.od.nih.gov/factsheets/VitaminK-HealthProfessional/

 

Dr. Korsh Jafarnia is one of Houston’s leading board certified, fellowship trained hand and upper extremity specialists.  A member of UT Physicians, Dr. Jafarnia is affiliated with Memorial Hermann IRONMAN Sports Medicine Institute at Memorial City and the Texas Medical Center.  He also serves as an assistant professor in the Department of Orthopedic Surgery at McGovern Medical School. Call 713.486.1700 for an appointment, or go to www.korshjafarniamd.com to

Hoverboard Hazards

The exciting new phenomena of “hoverboarding” has made hoverboards one of the most popular technological “toys” on the market today.  Intended for agile adolescents, its appeal has also drawn parents and other adults nostalgic for those days gone by.

The technology of the hoverboard, known as a smartboard or balance board as well, doesn’t actually create a hover but rather a forward and backward motion on a sideways skateboard of sorts, with either a large single center wheel or two smaller ones at each end.  It is automated, can reach a formidable speed of 16 mph and relies on body movement for navigation. It is basically a hands free, self-balancing electric scooter.

Concern over hoverboard safety grows amid increase in injuries.

Concern over hoverboard safety grows amid increase in injuries.

They have become the vehicle of choice for students travelling around campus and preteens maneuvering around the house and down the street to visit friends.  They light up, are stealth quiet, move as fast as one’s imagination …. and leave hands free for any other activity desired on the fly.

Unfortunately, while the mainstream hoverboard never actually leaves the ground, its ability to send riders airborne is causing increasing concern.

In fact, the Consumer Product Safety Commission has reported receiving dozens of hoverboard-related injuries from across the United States.  Houston hospitals have also reported in a recent Associated Press article seeing a sharp increase in the number of hoverboard accidents sending adult and young riders alike to the ER and urgent care clinics.

Colleges are not only restricting their use on campus, as a result of the injury risk (to the user and passers by) but also the fire hazard their electrical system poses.  The hoverboard fire hazard is covered extensively in other hoverboard reports.

Among the most common musculoskeletal injuries seen from hoverboard use include concussions, fractures, contusions and abrasions.

Concussions

While most frequently seen in sports such as football and soccer, concussions are increasingly reported in hoverboard accidents.  With no recommended safety wear, the speed and maneuverability of the device is resulting in high impact falls and collisions – resulting in concussions. The primary symptoms of a concussion include:

  • Headache
  • Trouble concentrating, feeling “foggy”
  • Nausea
  • Delayed reaction times
  • Dizziness, lightheadedness
  • Sensitivity with bright lights or loud sounds
  • Irritability

 If a concussion is suspected, an evaluation should be conducted by a physician and hoverboard and other balancing activities should be avoided.

Fractures

Wrist fractures are among the most common types of fractures seen in hoverboard accidents – distal radius fractures among the most common type of wrist fracture.  This is often the result of breaking a fall or harsh impact with an outstretched arm. Other hoverboard fractures and dislocations have been seen in the fingers. Symptoms of a fracture or dislocation can be evident with extreme pain, swelling and slight disfigurement or subtle with only slight swelling and pain.

Most wrist fractures and finger fractures and dislocations can be treated nonsurgically, depending on the severity of the fracture or dislocation.  A splint or other bracing may be indicated, along with anti-inflammatory medication and rest/refrain from extracurricular activity.

Contusions and Abrasions

Collisions causing contusions and abrasions are frequently reported on hoverboards in the absence of safety gear. While most are minor cuts and scraps, some may result in open wounds requiring stiches, while potentially damaging nerves and other soft tissue.  Swollen, discolored injuries lasting more than a month should be further evaluated by a physician.

Preventing Hoverboard Injuries

The lack of safety standards and recommended safety gear/wear is a concern among hoverboard retailers and healthcare providers alike.  But, parents do not have to wait until such recommendations are established.  If a hoverboard is in your family’s future, take the proper precautions. As with any sport, safety gear recommended or not, will provide a bit of assurance.

Cyclists travelling at much less speeds not only have both hands and legs navigating a two-wheeled structure designed for the road, but also helmets, gloves, shoes and other gear designed for safety and the sport. This is also true of rollerbladers and skateboarders. Invest in the safety of your hoverboard rider and purchase protective safety gear.

Help young riders understand the potential risks for injury and encourage that they err on the side of caution to avoid the ER.

Have fun and be safe!

Read a hoverboard article from a young contributing writer.

 

Baseball Fit – Preventive Exercises for a Winning Season

As weather warms and winter sports wind down, attention turns to the promise of a new baseball season and the championships ahead.

Now is the time to begin preparing.High School baseball

At the core of a successful team are strong players – physically strong, well rested and well conditioned.

Baseball is one of the few sports played almost daily throughout the entire season.  For young players beginning in little league, this amounts to a lot of plays by high school.  The frequency of repetitive stress injuries in youth baseball have increased over the years, particularly with the rise in special “elite” teams and extended seasons. This is most evident in young pitchers, on which much research has focused and for which Pitch Count guidelines have been developed.

Although baseball is not considered a contact sport, injuries can result from contact with the ball and other players, as well as poor form/technique, or an awkward movement during a play.

Some of the most common baseball injuries include:

  • Injuries in the shoulder and elbow (Little Leaguer’s Shoulder, Little Leaguer’s Elbow)
  • Knee injuries
  • Muscle pulls
  • Ligament injuries
  • Fractures (Finger, Distal Radius/Wrist)
  • Concussions 

While some injuries resulting from collision with another player are getting hit by the ball cannot be avoided, exercise can aid in reducing risks or preventing many repetitive stress related injuries.

Repetitive injuries are the result of repetitive use, stress and trauma to the soft tissues of the body (muscles, tendons, bones and joints), which are not given adequate time for proper healing. They are sometimes called cumulative trauma, repetitive stress or overuse injuries.

To avoid such repetitive stress conditions and muscle fatigue, players should have a dedicated fitness program – ideally one that is also specific to the position they play.  This should include overall strengthening and endurance, along with specific exercises to equally strengthen the muscles of the limb(s) most used. Such fitness programs should also include stretching and rest between play.

Exercise programs should also be age appropriate. Young, developing players are encouraged to build strength through resistance rather than weights. Involvement in other seasonal sports such as swimming and running can also provide excellent overall strengthening and endurance.

Strength and Conditioning Exercises – Upper Body

As a throwing sport, exercises for baseball concentrate heavily on the upper body – arms and shoulder. Core strength is also essential for pitching velocity, hitting power and running speed.

The key to any exercise program is the balanced/equal strengthening of muscle groups. For the upper body, this includes triceps/biceps, trapezius, rotator group, and deltoids.

Some Effective Arm, Shoulder and Core Exercises Include:

  • Resistance bands – These can be effective in building arm and shoulder strength. (View video on how these bands are used in exercise programs.)
  • Push ups – Traditional push ups are very effective in building upper body strength (arms, shoulders, back and core/abdominal muscles).
  • Pull ups – Using your own body weight/strength these work on the biceps, upper shoulder and back, upper abdominals and obliques.
  • The Plank – strengthens the core, lower back and oblique muscles. (View video demonstration of the Plank.)

Exercises to Improve Leg Strength

Lower body strength and conditioning is as important as upper body training for young athletes. Leg strength impacts throwing velocity, bat speed/force and running speed.

Squats, lunges and running are among the most effective ways to strengthen the lower body.

Stretching

Stretching is a very important part of an exercise program for athletes in any sport. During exercise and play muscles contract. When muscles contract, they produce tension at the point where the muscle is connected to the tendon. Stretching helps lengthen, relax and restore muscles to their natural state.

Stretching following activity is as important as stretching while warming up before practice and play.

Some easy, yet effective stretches include:

  • Elbow Pulls – Raise the right arm as though asking a question and drop the forearm behind the head though leaving the elbow in the air. Pull the elbow to the left with the left arm until you feel the stretch, hold briefly then repeat several times. Do the same on the opposite side.
  • Cross Body Arm Pulls – Straighten your right arm and pull it across the front of your body, cradling the forearm and elbow with the left hand, pull the arm towards the left across the body until you feel the stretch. Hold the stretch briefly, then repeat on the opposite side.
  • Shoulder Stretch – Lay face down on a floor mat and stretch arms overhead to form a “Y,” with palms facing down on the floor. With forehead on the ground, retract shoulder blades while lifting arms off the ground (still outstretched). Hold for a couple of seconds while squeezing the shoulder blades together. Be careful not to “shrug” the shoulders up. Return to starting position and perform several sets of 10 repetitions. To work the back a little differently, perform this same exercise with the arms straight out to your sides, forming the shape of a “T.”
  • Runner’s Lunge – Position into a deep lunge on your right leg, drop the knee of your left leg and lean forward over the right quad until you feel the stretch, hold for several seconds. Repeat on opposite leg.
  • Hamstring Stretch – Stand flat on the floor with feet a little less than hip width apart. Lean forward and place palm of your hands flat on the floor just in front of your feet, hold for several seconds.

TOP PREVENTION TIP

Resting is as important as any of the components in a successful training program.

FIREARM INJURIES -When Things Get Out of Hand

While firearm injuries to the hand and upper extremity represent a small percentage of all firearm traumas, when they happen the injury is often severe.

Frequently the result of mishandling a gun, the damage that both a bullet, the chamber and even the recoil can pose to the small bones and joints of the hand and wrist can be devastating and have a longterm impact.

Scope of Hand & Upper Extremity Problems in Firearm Users Range from Trauma to Repetitive Stress Conditions

From partial limb loss to stress fractures and repetitive stress conditions historically diagnosed in those working in a daily repetitive task, firearm users should recognize the dangers that exist behind the barrel as well.

Trauma – Open Wound

A broadly distributed article on an unfortunate handgun user losing the top half of his ill placed thumb – a result of the powerful vapors escaping from the chamber upon firing – cast a spotlight on the dangers of using certain firearms and the magnitude of damage that can occur to the small bones and intricate network of nerves, tendons and ligaments of the hand.

While this type of injury is uncommon, it is important to know what to do should it happen. Collecting any remains separated from the impacted area could aide a hand surgeon with replantation.  Rinsing the wound with sterile, normal saline and wrapping it if possible is advised just before heading to an emergency center for immediate assistance.

The surgical approach depends on the severity of damage to the tissue and bone. Open wounds like this are always treated with antibiotics, as “skin” is the body’s largest organ and when its protective barrier is compromised in this way and vulnerable to bacteria, antibiotics are used to reduce risk of infection.   If there is damage to the bone, surgery would entail stabilizing the bone.  Then, the tendons are repaired and the blood flow is re-established – with repair of the artery and veins. Potential problems can result from the magnitude of the blast, confounded by the risk of infection.  The expected outcome and long term function of such an injury is often highly variable as it depends on the amount of tissue damage from the accident.  Often times patients are able to regain adequate function despite not having full mobility of the injured extremity during their recovery.

Forceful Impact – Stress Fractures

Sportsmen frequently using what are known as “big-bore” handguns (models with rifle-type cartridges) have increasingly reported problems with their shooting hand – pain, swelling, weakness when shooting – following periods of preparation/practice for an upcoming hunt. This type of pain can stem from damage to the carpal bones of the wrist, as well as the forearm and elbow as a result of the repetitious and harsh recoil impact (much like a worker regularly using a Jackhammer or other such high powered equipment).  In some cases, this can result in a stress fracture.  Stress fractures are most commonly seen in the lower extremity of frequent runners or athletes, but can occasionally occur in the hand and upper extremity when subjected repeatedly to unusual force.

Treatment of stress fractures generally entails rest from the activity and possibly bracing.  Rehabilitative exercises are also effective in strengthening the shooting arm for both overcoming fatigue and reducing risk for more serious damage.

Repetitive Stress Conditions

Conditions like carpal tunnel syndrome and tennis elbow are considered repetitive stress conditions, most often associated with repetitive tasks in work or sports.  They are occasionally seen in the avid sportsman – practicing to perfect their shooting prior to a hunting season or holding the firearm only certain times of the year in a way to which the hand/arm is not accustomed.

These conditions are most often treated nonsurgically with rest and anti inflammatory medication.  Rehabilitation therapy is also frequently used to address these conditions – to restrengthen, stimulate healing and in some cases retrain hand and arm position during tasks identified as triggers. A new procedure known as the Graston Technique® is also an effective therapeutic way to address these types of repetitive stress conditions.  It entails uniquely designed stainless steel instruments and specially trained hand therapists to detect and treat the affected areas of soft tissue irritation.

Long-term Impact

Persistent pain and chronic inflammation can alter the natural mechanics of the affected limb, negatively impacting joints and accelerating joint degeneration – which could eventually result in osteoarthritis if unaddressed.

Reducing Risks

The best way to reduce the risk of firearm or other activity-related hand and upper extremity conditions is to space practices so that adequate time is allowed to rest the “master” hand and arm.  Strengthening exercises will also allow muscles to protect the soft tissue and bones.  Most sports also have protective gear, developed to address some of the most common conditions associated with frequent involvement.  Hunting is no exception, with brakes, grips and shooting gloves designed to reduce the impact of frequent shooting on the hand, wrist and elbow.

When pain is persistent, seeking medical attention will often reduce risk of more serious injury and permit conservative treatment to effectively address the problem and promote a healthier approach to the activities you enjoy.