Jock Doc

Broken wrist looks like it’s healing. Why does doctor still suggest surgery?

Q: I tripped while walking my dog and landed on my left wrist. I felt a crack, looked down and my wrist appeared crooked. I went to the emergency room and they straightened it out, put me in a splint and referred me to a hand specialist. I saw the doctor yesterday and she told me when the swelling goes down, I need surgery to keep the fracture in place. My wrist looks straight and I wonder why I just can’t wear a cast until it heals rather than have surgery.

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Selesnick Herald File

A: For many years, wrist fractures were treated by aligning the break as straight as possible and wearing a cast until it healed. However, many patients lost considerable motion, had persistent pain, developed arthritis and were upset at the not so straight appearance.

If a wrist fracture is out of place or involves a displacement of the joint surface, it will likely require surgery to align the bones and have a plate and screws inserted to keep the fracture stable. Surgery usually allows a shorter period of immobilization post op, as well as beginning rehab earlier to get as normal a result as possible. Surgery is easier if it is done soon after the injury and I recommend you follow your doctor’s advice or at least get another opinion.

Dr. Harlan Selesnick is team physician of the Miami Heat and director of Miami Sports Medicine Fellowship, Doctors Hospital. Send your questions to