Doctor inspecting rotator cuff injury

Six common orthopaedic injuries in men

Tibia fractures happen, but not as often as meniscal tears. It turns out, there are certain orthopaedic injuries that are simply more common in men than other injuries. The likely reason: a combination of their hobbies, their jobs, their mindset and the allure of Nevada’s great outdoors. (Yes, sometimes men — and women too, but we’ll be addressing them in a future blog post — try to lift heavy things without help, jump into games without a warm up, or fly off jumps on their skis). Here are six common orthopaedic injuries surgeons at Great Basin Orthopaedics (GBO) see frequently in male patients.

1. Hand and arm fractures

It turns out, sporty men and handy men are more prone to hand and wrist fractures. Dr Michael Lilyquist, a hand and upper extremity specialist at GBO, reports seeing hand fractures most frequently in young men. “Contact sports such as football and basketball, as well as more extreme sports like mountain biking and skiing, account for many hand fractures,” says Lilyquist. “And young men often participate in these activities.”

Playing sports, doing projects around the house, or doing a job that is physical in nature can also lead to hand and arm fractures. Men are more prone to serious falls, such as from a ladder, and falls are often broken by an outstretched arm, which results in different injuries depending on age. In the young, it may cause a fracture of the upper arm bone, or humerus, right above the elbow. In the elderly, the same fall often causes a distal radial fracture, a break near the wrist.

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2. Achilles tendon injury

The Achilles tendon is the largest tendon in the body, connecting the calf muscle to the ankle bone. This tendon makes it possible for the foot to flex, a necessary function for walking. An Achilles tendon tear is typically very painful and causes pain to the calf and heel, and the person affected may be unable to push off with the injured leg while walking.

This injury is far more likely in men — three times as likely— than it is in women. Sports like track, football and basketball can lead to an Achilles tendon injury. A person is at higher risk of an Achilles tear with sudden stress, an increase in sports activity, or with an activity that involves jumping.

3. Rotator cuff injuries

The four tendons that attach muscles from the shoulder blade to the upper arm bone (humerus) and help rotate the arm in its socket are called the rotator cuff. From accidents to overuse, rotator cuff injuries are among the most common male orthopaedic injuries Dr. Thomas Fyda, a GBO sports medicine specialist, sees. “Rotator cuff tears are very common,” Fyda says. “Tendons in the rotator cuff can be easily injured because they have limited range within that tight space. A sudden or unexpected movement can exceed the natural limit of those tendons, causing a tear.”

The three main rotator cuff injuries are:

  • Rotator cuff tendonitis — Inflammation of one of the tendons causing pain during upward reaching movements
  • Shoulder bursitis — Inflammation in the pocket of fluid that lubricates the rotator cuff tendons — pain often worse at night
  • Rotator cuff tear — Tear in one of the tendons after being weakened by inflammation

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4. Distal bicep tear

Another tendon subject to injury in men is the distal bicep. The distal bicep tendon is the tendon that connects your bicep to your forearm.

A distal tear is characterized by a loud ‘pop,’ followed by a sudden and intense pain. Immediate bruising in the arm is common. Injuries to this tendon are prevalent in men aged 30 to 60, most often during heavy lifting, and is especially common in smokers and people with weakened muscles.

5. Meniscal tears

The wedge-shaped pieces of cartilage that act as a shock absorber between your thighbone and shinbone to stabilize your knee is called a meniscus. Healthy knees have two of these tough rubbery shock absorbers, but menisci are subject to frequent injury.

Athletes, particularly those who play contact sports or sports with a lot of pivoting or squatting, are at increased risk for meniscus tears. Older people are more likely to have degenerative meniscus tears. Tears can happen in different ways and are named according to the tear type: bucket handle tear, flap tear, radial tear, and degenerative tear.

Tears are often accompanied by a ‘popping’ sensation, followed by swelling, pain, knee instability and limited range of motion.

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6. Osteoporosis

Osteoporosis is often under-diagnosed in men because most think of it as an exclusively female health problem. However, approximately 2 million American men already have osteoporosis, and 12 million more are at risk. The condition is characterized by bone thinning that makes bones brittle and porous and likely to fracture. For men, osteoporosis typically occurs later in life than women and progresses more slowly.

Preventing injury is best

Preventing injury when possible should always be the goal. When you are participating in any physically demanding activity, appropriate footwear and safety equipment, as well as proper form, can go a long way toward injury prevention.

While exercise is good for keeping our bodies in shape, everyone should be careful not to overdo it and go too hard too soon. Especially as we age, ramping up activity intensity slowly and cooling down afterwards are key injury prevention strategies, and not just for exercise. Whether you are going for a jog or cleaning out your gutters, warming up your muscles and doing some light stretching beforehand could be the difference between a job well done and being sidelined.

When you do get hurt

Whether your sport, hobby, job or age have led to orthopaedic injury and pain, GBO can help. Our board-certified and board-eligible surgeons can diagnose, treat and manage your condition, improving mobility and function and getting you back to the activities you’re missing. Call us to schedule a consultation at 775.786.1600.