Epidemiology and Long-Term Outcomes of Wrist Sprains in Military Academy Cadets

Am J Sports Med. 2021 Jul;49(8):2085-2089. doi: 10.1177/03635465211013551. Epub 2021 May 26.


Background: The American Society for Surgery of the Hand advises patients that symptoms after wrist sprains resolve in 6 weeks and that recovery is usually excellent; however, there is scant supporting evidence for this reassurance.

Purpose: To describe the epidemiology and report long-term outcomes of wrist sprains.

Study design: Descriptive epidemiology study.

Methods: The US Department of Defense Military Health System Management Analysis and Reporting Tool was queried for wrist sprain International Classification of Diseases, Ninth Revision, codes between 2005 and 2008 among US Military Academy cadets. The electronic medical records were reviewed to obtain demographic information, mechanism of injury, and patient characteristics. A telephone survey was conducted to collect Single Assessment Numeric Evaluation (SANE) score, the shortened version of Disabilities of the Arm, Shoulder and Hand (QuickDASH) score, and ability to return to full military duty.

Results: Of the 90 patients identified, 49 patients (50 wrists) met the final inclusion criteria. The mean patient age was 21 years, the majority were male (86%), and most sprains occurred during athletics (65%) and military activities (20%). Most patients (61%) had radiographs taken after index wrist sprain, and few (14%) underwent magnetic resonance imaging (MRI). After a mean follow-up of 10.4 years, most patients (78%) had no further wrist injury. The average SANE and QuickDASH scores were 88 and 7.5, respectively. Two patients (4%) ultimately were treated with surgical repair. Most patients (96%) were on an upper extremity profile, limiting military duty for a median of 14 days. All patients ultimately returned to full military duty.

Conclusion: Patients with a wrist sprain diagnosis were followed for an average of 10 years. Although the majority (96%) of patients required a median of 14 days with limited upper extremity function, MRI is rarely indicated in the acute setting and most patients will never have another wrist injury and can expect excellent wrist recovery outcomes.

Keywords: boxing; general imaging and radiography; magnetic resonance imaging; military training; wrist.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Female
  • Hand Injuries*
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Military Personnel*
  • Retrospective Studies
  • Sprains and Strains* / epidemiology
  • Wrist
  • Wrist Injuries* / diagnostic imaging
  • Wrist Injuries* / epidemiology
  • Wrist Injuries* / surgery
  • Young Adult