Hand and Wrist Surgeon Relieves Pain, Restores Function

With South Florida’s year-round warm weather, outdoor sports like golf, tennis and running are always popular. With all that activity comes the potential for injury, however, with injuries to the hand and wrist among the most common for the “weekend warriors” among us.

Hand and wrist injuries account forapproximately 25% of all sports injuries and are some of the mostcommon injuries that athletes experience. Elizabeth Anne Ouellette,M.D., MBA, a renowned orthopedic hand surgeon at Miami Orthopedics &Sports Medicine Institute with more than 30 years of clinicalexperience treating athletes and people of all ages, specializes in thetreatment of wrist fractures, ligament tears, nerve injuries, joint instabilityand small joint replacement.

Dr. Ouellette says she sees a lot of golfers and tennis players in herpractice. “I’ve got patients of all ages, some as young as eight or nine andsome well into their eighties and nineties,” she says. “Mostly it’s sprains,strains and tears or fractures caused by overuse, accidents or falls.”

Elizabeth Anne Ouellette, M.D., MBA, renowned orthopedic hand surgeon at Miami Orthopedics & Sports Medicine Institute

With herspecial expertise in wrist and nerves, Dr.Ouellette also sees a lot ofpeople with tendinitis, carpal tunnel syndrome and repetitive stress injuries.Tendonitis, she says, is causedby inflammation of the tendon, usually resulting from overuse in sports orwork. It typically occurs around the shoulder (rotator cuff tendinitis, bicepstendinitis); elbow (tennis elbow, golfer’s elbow); wrist; hip; knee (jumper’sknee), or ankle (Achilles tendinitis). “I can tell you what sport you play justby knowing where your pain is,” she says with a chuckle.

Carpal tunnel syndrome occurs when the median nerve thatruns the length of the arm is squeezed or compressed as it travels through thewrist, causing significant and sometimes debilitating pain. “While the condition may not bevisible to others, it can really affect one’s quality of life,” she says. “Itcan severely limit their ability to play sports and even the most routine motionsuch as turning a doorknob or opening a jar lid can cause agonizing pain.”

Dr. Ouellette says carpal tunnel syndrome is a particularlyinteresting area of focus for her research because genetics, hormones, anatomyand metabolism all play a role in the condition.

“Women are three times morelikely than men to develop carpal tunnel syndrome,” she says. “Also at highrisk are people with diabetes or other metabolic disorders that directly affectthe body’s nerves and make them more susceptible to compression.”

Dr. Ouellette also says bodyweight may play a role in carpal tunnel syndrome. “A recent studypublished in JAMA (the Journal of the American Medical Association) found that 80percent of the carpal tunnel patients they followed were overweight.”

Dr. Ouellette, who also treats fractures of the hand andwrist, says she saw many cases in the week or two leading up to the coronaviruslockdown in mid-March. “There was a lot of anxiety in those days leading up tothe lockdown,” she says. “We saw a lot of metacarpal (hand) fractures frompeople punching walls – five cases in just one week. And it wasn’t just mendoing the punching – some of them were women,” she adds with a laugh. Dogs alsofelt the stress, apparently. “We had five dog bite injuries in one week,” Dr.Ouellette says. “I guess they felt the tension, too.”

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