Christian Walker of the South Carolina Gamecocks scored a go-ahead run in the College World Series last night with a broken left wrist.
What kind of wrist fracture does he have? In this article, I’ll show you where the most common type of hamate fracture is in baseball players.
The hamate bone is one of eight small bones in the wrist, called carpal bones. Each carpal bone has smooth cartilage and forms one or more joints in the human wrist.
Where is the hamate bone?
The hamate is a bone on the pinkie, or ulnar side of the wrist. You can see it outlined in this x-ray.
Where is the hamate on Christian Walker’s palm?
Here the arrow is pointing to the location of the hamate hook in the palm. This area is tightly compressed against the bat during ball contact and you can imagine how you would hit this part of your hand first when sliding into a base.
In this view, you can see where the hamate hook sticks out toward the palm side of the wrist.
Here I’ve superimposed an x-ray onto the skin so you can see how the bones line up.
How is the hamate vulnerable to fracture?
One reason the hamate is fractured is because it sticks out a little into the palm side of the wrist, where it forms a “hook”. Tendons, a nerve, and blood vessels that move and supply the pinky finger (or small finger) right inside the groove formed by this hook of bone.
Baseball players break their hamate bones in one of several possible ways:
- landing directly on the palm (sliding into a base with outstretched hands)
- a baseball violently strikes the palm
- “fat” or awkward ball contact during batting
- a check swing with violent deceleration
Why are these fractures dangerous?
Hamate fractures rarely heal on their own. The break creates a sharp edge of bone that can rub on tendons and irritate the ulnar nerve, which supplies the pinky side of the hand. If one of the tendons ruptures, this can mean very complicated and difficult surgery for the player.
How are hamate wrist fractures treated in baseball players?
Most wrist surgeons recommend treating hamate hook fractures by taking out the fractured piece. This takes away the source of nerve and tendon irritation and drastically lowers the risk of a tendon rupture. The surgery takes several weeks to recover from and players sometimes have slight leftover weakness in the hand after healing.