A fracture of the scaphoid, though a relatively frequent wrist injury, is often ignored, overlooked, or mistakenly attributed to a wrist sprain. This is due in large part to the subtlety of its symptoms. Unlike most other broken bones, the area around the scaphoid may not be noticeably swollen or intensely painful.
According to HSS Hand Specialist Scott Wolfe, MD, “because of the scaphoid fracture’s relatively innocuous symptoms, it may be mistaken for a sprain and remain undiagnosed for months or years, leading to long-term consequences of painful arthritis.”
A scaphoid fracture is usually caused by a fall on the outstretched hand, and it occurs most often in young, active patients. Frequently, the injury occurs in sporting events such as skiing or snowboarding, although it can also occur as a result of a motor vehicle accident or similar traumatic force on the hand and wrist.
Dr. Wolfe notes that extra vigilance should be paid to every wrist injury, since the fleeting symptoms of a scaphoid fracture - in addition to its complicated shape and precarious blood supply - can lead to a failure of the two fractured bone ends to unite (also called a nonunion).