Horse pursuits a significant cause of hand injuries among sports, German study shows

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Equestrian sports were responsible for 13% of the 364 sporting hand injuries identified in a recent study in Germany. © Mike Bain

Equestrian pursuits have been identified as a significant cause of hand injuries in a German study that explored hand injuries in sport.

Among 42 different sports, equestrian pursuits sat third behind cycling and football in the number of hand injuries.

Equestrian sports were responsible for 13% of the 364 sporting hand injuries identified in the study.

Hand injuries are common in sports and are associated with high dropout rates among participants, Viola Stögner and her colleagues reported in the journal BMC Musculoskeletal Disorders. They are also costly to treat.

Researchers with the Department of Plastic, Aesthetic, Hand and Reconstructive Surgery at the Hannover Medical School in Germany examined data going back five years on sports-related hand injuries treated by their department, which is an accredited hand trauma centre.

The 364 injuries identified covered 42 different sports.

The number of hand injuries and their percentage, according to different types of sport. Only sports responsible for 1% or more of the recorded hand injuries in the study were included in the graph. Image: Stögner et al. https://doi.org/10.1186/s12891-020-03807-z

The sport that caused the most hand trauma was cycling, accounting for 28% (101) of the injuries, followed by football at 18% (66) and equestrian sports at 13% (46 injuries).

When the injuries were classified into wider groupings, ball sports without a bat (which included football, handball, volleyball, basketball, rugby and the like), were responsible for the most injuries at 31% (114), again followed by cycling at 28%. Equestrian sport remained in third spot at 13%, followed by winter sports, responsible for 7% of all sporting hand injuries in the study (24).

The number of hand injuries and their percentage, according to different sports groups Image: Stögner et al. https://doi.org/10.1186/s12891-020-03807-z

The most frequent trauma involved fractures of the wrist or hand, at 39% (141 injuries), followed by open wounds at 24% (86) and strains or sprains at 17% (62).

Discussing their findings, the study team said equitation-related hand injuries not only represented one of the most common sports injuries in their analysis, but were also associated with a significantly higher operation and hospitalisation rates, as well as significantly longer inpatient treatment, the four-strong study team noted.

The need for surgery was mostly because of the increased rate of fractures among riders.

Hand injuries from equestrian sport also accounted for nine out of 14 traumatic finger amputations in the study population, they noted.

“These findings support our clinical notion that complex injury patterns are common in equitation sports,” they said.

“Interestingly, equestrian sports seem to be underrepresented in the current literature. Therefore these findings might well add relevant information for clinical practice.”

The 2018 German regulations for equestrian sports specify mandatory gloves only in dressage and horse driving sports, they noted.

“Regarding the high incidences of trauma and their severity, a broadening of this rule to all disciplines in equestrian sports should be discussed.”

The researchers said the high costs associated with hand and wrist injuries underlined the economic importance of maximising safety in sports. The financial burden of these injuries can be serious at an individual level, too, they added.

Greater efforts should be made to increase safety in sports, they said, which would be helped by accurate injury surveillance programmes in Europe.

The study team comprised Stögner, Alexander Kaltenborn and Peter Vogt, all with the Department of Plastic, Aesthetic, Hand and Reconstructive Surgery at Hannover Medical School; and Hans Laser, who is with the medical school’s Department for Educational and Scientific IT Systems.

Stögner, V.A., Kaltenborn, A., Laser, H. et al. Hand injuries in sports – a retrospective analysis of 364 cases. BMC Musculoskelet Disord 21, 826 (2020). https://doi.org/10.1186/s12891-020-03807-z

The study, published under a Creative Commons License, can be read here

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