At WiseGEEK, we're committed to delivering accurate, trustworthy information. Our expert-authored content is rigorously fact-checked and sourced from credible authorities. Discover how we uphold the highest standards in providing you with reliable knowledge.
A Bennett's fracture is a type of hand fracture named after the Irish surgeon Dr. Edward Hallaran Bennett, who first described it in the year 1882. This particular type of fracture involves the base of the thumb where it meets the joint known as the carpometacarpal joint. At first glance, a Bennett's fracture looks benign, although prompt treatment is essential in order to preserve the proper use of the thumb. Treatment methods vary and may include immobilization with the use of a cast or surgical intervention. Any questions or concerns about a Bennett's fracture or the most appropriate method of treatment on an individual basis should be discussed with a doctor or other medical professional.
Athletes are at a particular risk of suffering a Bennett's fracture, especially those involved in sports such as rugby or football. This fracture normally occurs during a fall on an outstretched hand when the thumb is flexed. In most cases, the break occurs on the dominant hand and is much more common among men than women.
The thumb bone, medically known as the first metacarpal bone, is surrounded by several smaller bones. When a Bennett's fracture occurs, these bones are unable to fuse together properly, leading to an inability to use the joint at the base of the thumb in an effective manner. The surrounding cartilage, tendons, and nerves may become damaged as well, leading to more intense pain and greatly reducing the range of motion and overall usefulness of the hand.
Treatment options for a Bennett's fracture have been a source of controversy almost from the beginning. Originally, it was thought that manual manipulation and immobilization were the best mode of treatment. More recent studies have indicated that immobilization through the use of a cast may be somewhat beneficial, although surgery may allow for more use of the affected hand upon recovery.
Surgery to repair the damage caused by a Bennett's fracture is usually successful in restoring proper bone alignment and is the chosen method of treatment for many athletes. Although there is no guarantee that future surgery will not be required, it is widely believed that long-term results are more likely with surgery than with immobilization alone. As there are varying degrees of damage caused by this type of fracture, diagnostic tests such as an x-ray or CT scan may be performed before the doctor decides on the most appropriate treatment for the individual situation.