Conservative treatment of an acute traumatic extensor carpi ulnaris tendon subluxation in a collegiate basketball player: a case report

J Athl Train. Sep-Oct 2011;46(5):574-6. doi: 10.4085/1062-6050-46.5.574.


Objective: To present the case of an acute traumatic extensor carpi ulnaris (ECU) subluxation in a National Collegiate Athletic Association Division II female basketball player.

Background: The ECU tendon is stabilized in the ulnar groove by a subsheath located inferior to the extensor retinaculum. The subsheath can be injured with forced supination, ulnar deviation, and wrist flexion, resulting in the ECU tendon subluxing in the palmar and ulnar directions during wrist circumduction. Several methods of intervention exist, but controversy remains on how to best treat this condition.

Differential diagnosis: Distal ulnar fracture, ulnar collateral ligament sprain, triangular fibrocartilage complex lesion, lunotriquetral instability, distal radioulnar joint injury, pisotriquetral joint injury, ECU tendinopathy or subluxation.

Treatment: The wrist was placed in a short-arm cast in slight extension and radial deviation for 4 weeks. At that time, the patient was still able to actively sublux the ECU tendon, so a long-arm cast was applied with the wrist in slight extension, radial deviation, and pronation for an additional 4 weeks. The ECU tendon was then found to be stable. She wore a rigid wrist brace for 3 more weeks while she pursued rehabilitation. At the final follow-up appointment, the ECU tendon remained stable, and the wrist was asymptomatic.

Uniqueness: Subluxations of the ECU are rare. If the patient does not improve with conservative measures, surgical intervention is warranted to repair the sixth dorsal compartment.

Conclusions: A long-arm cast with the elbow flexed to 90° and the wrist in approximately 30° of extension, radial deviation, and pronation was appropriate treatment for this type of injury.

Publication types

  • Case Reports

MeSH terms

  • Athletes
  • Athletic Injuries / diagnosis
  • Athletic Injuries / therapy*
  • Basketball / injuries*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Joint Dislocations / therapy*
  • Tendon Injuries / diagnosis
  • Tendon Injuries / therapy*
  • Universities
  • Wrist / physiology
  • Wrist Injuries / diagnosis
  • Wrist Injuries / therapy*
  • Wrist Joint
  • Young Adult