Although not as prevalent compared to western boxing, hand injuries are commonplace in Muay Thai. Most everyone experiences some kind of pain or soreness in their hands or wrists at some point in their training journey. Even with an arsenal of all 8 limbs, the 2 fists are still one of the most used weapons in Thai boxing. When you are hitting at the heavy bag and pads like a raging bull day after day, hand injuries can -and will- happen at some point. Things get a bit more complicated when you are blocking swinging kicks with your hands at sparring.
Here are 4 hand injuries you may encounter when you train Muay Thai or boxing:
#1 Trembling Hands
This isn’t so much an injury but I have opted to add it to the list since it is fairly common. If you are new to pugilistic sports like boxing or Muay Thai, or if you are out of training for a period of time, you may find your hands shaking after training. This involuntary shaking is usually mild and will subside quickly, especially with some rest after training.
There have been a few explanations as to why this happens: muscle fatigue, adrenaline, hand trauma, insufficient energy. Based on these reasons, this phenomenon should go away with regular training and ingesting sufficient carbs before training. You should avoid going too hard with your punches if you are a beginner or out of action for too long. Make sure to also use well-padded gloves for proper protection and to reduce the impact.
If the trembling worsens or continues hours after training has ended, you might want to consult a doctor for evaluation. Just to be safe that there is no underlying nerve damage or more serious conditions.
#2 Knuckle Bruise/Pain
If you are new to the game, your virgin tender knuckles will be prone to some bruising and pain from heavy bag and focus mitt training. You may experience redness, light bruising to more serious case like swelling. Most of the time, these will go away as your knuckles get conditioned with regular training and isn’t anything to worry about.
Again, this happens because many beginners start out over-enthusiastically by going all Mike Tyson at the heavy bags and mitts. Knuckle soreness can be minimized with proper hand wrapping, and more importantly, go for heavier gloves (14 oz and up) that offer adequate cushioning for your knuckles.
In case of swelling, ice it 3-4 times a day for 15-20 minutes each time. This will help to prevent inflammation and reduce the swelling. Rest the hands for a few days till the pain subsides before returning to training. If the pain persists or aggravates after several days, consult a doctor to get an Xray to see if anything is broken.
#3 Boxer’s Fracture
Boxer’s fracture refers to the breaking of any of the metacarpal bones (behind the knuckles) of the hand. This break in the bones is obviously a more serious injury and tends to affect boxers and competing fighters due to the nature of the sports. However, if proper care is not taken, boxer’s fracture can affect just about anyone who trains Muay Thai or boxing.
Boxer’s fracture often happens as a result of poor punching form. Although boxer’s fracture can happen to any of the fingers, the ring and pinky are more susceptible to injury. Always make a fist firmly and punch straight and square with maximum contact on the first two knuckles, which allows the impact to be properly dissipated. The general boxing advice goes and that is to wrap your hands tautly and work your perfecting your punching techniques before you start going too hard. Bone density plays a part as everyone experiences bone loss as they age. It is thus important to ensure enough calcium intake regularly.
If injured, ice the affected area and keep the hand immobilized. Given time and proper rest, fractures will heal on their own. But boxer’s fracture can be painfully inhibiting, it is best to seek medical advice and treatment for proper rehabilitation.
# 4 Wrist Injuries
Wrist injuries are very common in martial arts and can range from mild soreness to excruciating fractures. Such injuries can result from repetitive strain/overuse or punching too hard.
As with boxer’s fractures, wrists injuries usually stem from poor form and incorrect techniques. Align the fist with the forearm to prevent the wrist from bending at awkward angles when punching. Besides techniques, it’s always about hand wrapping. The simple fabric is the most important piece of gear when it comes to protecting your hands and wrists. Weak wrists also attribute to higher risks of wrist injuries. Perform exercises that promote wrist strength and always ensure to stretch and warm up the wrists before training. On top of that, make sure to use gloves that fit correctly or provide superior wrist support. Ill-fitting gloves are a main culprit for resulting in many wrist mishaps.
Give the wrists some time off from boxing to allow them to heal completely. Punching with sprained wrists can worsen the injury and extending your recovery period. Wearing a wrist brace can also help in rehabilitation.
Whether you are a pro fighter or weekend warrior, hand injuries will plague you at some point. But with proper gear, care and management as highlighted in the article, you can minimize such occupational/recreational risks. People with small hands and wrists should also take additional precaution by selecting suitable size-appropriate gloves. (For glove recommendations, see “Best Muay Thai Gloves with Small Hands” and “Best Muay Thai Gloves for Wrist Support”).
Even when you are injured, it doesn’t mean you should lay off training entirely. Let your trainers know about your hand injuries and you can continue to work on your elbows, knees, and legs in the meantime. Always train hard, but remember to also train safely. Your body will thank you for it.