What is a Scapholunate Tear?

21 August 2017  |  Eugene

Athletes and active people tend to be at a higher risk of tears, fractures and other injuries in their body, and even in an area as small as the wrist there are a multitude of possible injuries. Since the wrist is full of so many tiny bones and ligaments, the possibilities for injury are almost endless. Here at WristSupports.co.uk, we're committed to educating our customers about their wrists, and today we'll cover a common injury among athletes: the Scapholunate Tear.

What is a Scapholunate Tear?

The scapholunate (SL) is an important ligament that connects two of the small carpal bones of the wrist together: the scaphoid and the lunate. These tiny bones, located near the centre of the wrist structure, are responsible for making sure the rest of the bones move together in unison. When the scapholunate is functioning properly, the wrist moves smoothly, but, when it is torn, wrist function is heavily affected. Without a healthy scapholunate, the bones can separate in different directions, leading to pain and an eventual loss of grip strength, which can drastically affect an athlete's performance.

What are the Symptoms of a Scapholunate Tear?

For those suffering from a Scapholunate Tear, the symptoms will be fairly obvious and unavoidable. Athletes will experience a distinct lack of performance due to their decreased grip strength and wrist movement, making normal aerobic function painful, and, in many cases, impossible. Some of the most common symptoms of a Scapholunate Tear can include:

  • Pain on the radial side (thumb side) of the wrist
  • Swelling in or around the wrist
  • Bruising of the radial side of the wrist
  • Weakened grip
  • Snapping or popping in wrist when moved
  • A loss of range of motion in the wrist

Scapholunate tear in hand of athlete

Athlete being examined for a Scapholunate Tear

What Causes a Scapholunate Tear?

Scapholunate Tears are most common in athletes, as they are usually caused by a sudden impact on the scapholunate, as can happen during a fall. This usually occurs on an outstretched hand, where the thumb is fully extended from the hand and is bent backwards to an unnatural degree. Due to the complex nature of the wrist, this injury is often accompanied by other injuries, such as a scaphoid fracture or a lunate dislocation. There are four degrees of Scapholunate Tear that may be diagnosed:

  • Predynamic: The least severe type of Scapholunate Tear. It involves a partial tear only, with the rest of the ligament remaining intact.
  • Dynamic: Ligament is completely torn, or stretched so far that it is not functional. There may also be mild injury to the surrounding ligaments.
  • Static: Ligament in completely torn to the point where surrounding structures are also damaged. A gap is visible via x-ray between the scaphoid and lunate
  • Scapholunate Advanced Collapse (SLAC): Ligament has been completely torn for months or years, causing arthritis and other damage to the wrist. This occurs due to longstanding and untreated ligament injuries.

Treatment of a Scapholunate Tear

While Static and SLAC injuries to the scapholunate will often require surgery, less severe varieties can be treated with immobilisation and anti-inflammatory painkillers. Your physician may have to conduct an x-ray on the area for a proper diagnosis. 

For injuries that are less severe, a brace should be worn for 2 to 6 weeks, depending on the speed of recovery. Activities that cause pain, such as gripping objects tightly or pushing, should be minimised or cut out entirely. Once recovery has progressed, the immobilising splint can be replaced by a removable brace, protecting the area while allowing movement to slowly commence once again.

Splints and Braces for a Scapholunate Tear

Here at WristSupports.co.uk, we stock a wide variety of splints and braces for Scapholunate Tears. We have splints designed to completely immobilise the area, suitable for the first stages of treatment, as well as less restrictive braces to allow the athlete to begin moving the area and slowly return to activity. To check out our entire range of splints and braces for Scapholunate Tears, click the yellow button below.


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