Purpose: To determine the prevalence of chronic wrist injuries among adolescent gymnasts and the consequences of repetitive stress.
Materials and methods: Students of a Chinese opera school underwent radiography of both wrists and answered a questionnaire. They were separated into study (n = 261) and control (n = 63) groups according to participation in or abstinence from exercise training, respectively. They were further separated into fused and unfused physis subgroups. The ulnar variance was measured on posteroanterior radiographs. Abnormalities of distal radii were investigated.
Results: An increase in both mean ulnar variance and frequency of ulnar-plus variance was noted in the study subgroups. Fourteen (8.2%) of 170 wrists of the fused physis study subgroup had an exceedingly large ulnar-plus variance. Sixty-one (17.3%) of 352 wrists had abnormal morphology of the distal radii in the unfused physis study subgroup. Widening of the physis was the most common finding.
Conclusion: Chronic, repetitive stress in the wrists of adolescent gymnasts results in a localized growth disturbance of the distal radius with resultant ulnar-plus variance. Stress injuries of the physis may lead to permanent sequelae, even in asymptomatic individuals.