An epidemiological study of 118 upper extremity injuries in NASCAR pit crews tracked over a 10 year period shows a surge in hook of hamate (a bone in the palm on the small finger side of the wrist) hand injuries in particular among changers and carriers.
- Among changers alone, five injuries were hook of hamate fractures (a 7% incidence rate);
- Among carriers alone, three injuries were hook of hamate fractures (a 12% incidence rate);
- Two more upper extremity NASCAR pit crew cases since the study concluded were also hook of hamate injuries.
According to Dr. Glenn Gaston, Chief Hand Surgeon with the OrthoCarolina Hand Center and Hand Consultant to many NASCAR teams who led the research, hook of hamate fractures are relatively rare in the general population. These fractures can be easily missed or overlooked as they often feel similar to a bruise or strain and don’t always show up on X-ray. The small bone is in a precarious position in the wrist as the ulnar artery, ulnar nerve and the carpal tunnel run adjacent to it. The mechanism of injury is typically from the impact of blunt force to the hand and is also seen in athletes who play baseball, tennis, and golf.
“In NASCAR we generally see hook of hamate injuries that occur from a direct blow to the palm,” said Dr. Gaston. “For pit crew members this can happen when carriers are placing tires on the car or when changers are adjusting the gun.”
Orthopedic injuries in NASCAR vary between positions and can be linked to the demands of each role. OrthoCarolina has previously tracked upper extremity injury trends in NASCAR drivers and pit crew through epidemiological studies including the general impact of musculoskeletal forces on the bodies of motorsports athletes.