Long term affects of getting plates in wrist (musician concerns)

Posted , 6 users are following.

Five years ago I fell out of a tree and broke my left radius and ulna where it connects to the wrist.  I went to the hospital where they non-surgically set it in place and cast it but foolishly I didn't go back for any follow-up, and when I removed the cast myself roughly 6 weeks later the wrist had fallen back into the position it was in when I first broke it thus resulting in this flipper-like wrist that I've been living with since then.  It immediately crippled my ability to play the bass guitar, greatly reduced my abilities on 6-string guitar, and I cannot practice proper technique on drums or piano.  I also cannot do any upper-body workouts like push-ups or pull-ups without great discomfort and pain.

So here I am today financially prepared and insured for getting surgery done for it, finally.  I'm about to proceed with preperation for surgery hopefully having it in a month's time, however I'm nervous about the long-term affects of having plates and screws in my wrist.  As a musician who definitely plans on using it a lot this is a huge anxiety.  I want to attain a degree of professionalism and virtuosity in every instrument I take on, but will my wrist hold up for me or will there be problems that could shut me down down the road somewhere?  Some details:

- I'm 26 years old, male, no other health problems

- The doctor wants to graft bone from my hip into my radius to extend it then add two plates with screws, one to my radius and the other to my ulna.

- I also have aspirations to work and tone my muscles throughout my body, aspirations that could be hindered by potential problem from the plates.

So, in conclusion, I want to know if there are any serious musicians out there with plates in their wrist that could talk to me about this.  What's it like?  What problems do you have?  What's it like playing instruments after 20 years of having plates in your wrist?  Athletes: what's it like working out with plates in your wrist?

Thanks anyone who responds with valuable input.

0 likes, 7 replies

7 Replies

  • Posted

    This is really something you sould be asking your surgeon, simply because he knows exactly how the bone in broken, what damage has been done by the way it has set, exactly how he is planning on reparing it and how is is positioning the plates. The answer to any one of those questions could affect your prospects greatly.

    However, providing he is able to get a decent repair job done and you follow after care and any rehab instructions to the letter, you should be able to play any instrument you so desire without too much difficulty. I have plates in my ankle and it is worth noting that it gets uncomfortable when it is cold, so in the winter if I am outside it can feel a little stiff and uncomfortable, but it isn't painful.

    I wish you the best of luck in your surgery, and I hope they are able to do a decent job repairing it but your surgeon should have told you what sort of mobility you will be able to expect? If he/she hasn't then I would make sure you ask them next time you see them. xxxx


    • Posted

      I have asked my doctor but I'd like to also get input from people who've had this done and I'd like to know what their experience is like years down the road.  A doctor will tell me what they'll tell me, but where is he/she going to be 15 years from now when something's going on with my wrist that's a direct consequence of the plates?  Where am I going to be?  I'd like to talk to people who've been told that there won't be any problems who can confirm this for me after years of having had the surgery, especially decades down the road.  
  • Posted

    It is difficult for anyone else to predict as they won't have had the 5 year gap between the original accident and the current treatment.
    • Posted

      Yeah I know.  I just want to hear someone's similar experience, just for approximate reassurance if it's positive.
  • Posted

    Hello m00py! First of all, I am a musician myself, and I am sorry that this fracture is hurting your ability to play. I completly understand the frustration of not being able to play your instrument. (I am a trombone player who has had trouble with my wrist in the past.) 

    I have  never had and surgeries or anything on my wrists (knock on wood) but I did break my foot in August of last year. The break was in the first metatarsal, and I had surgery to stabilize it with 2 screws and a titanium plate. I know this isn't a wrist problem, but I figured it might help to hear what it's like having metal in a body part that you need for daily activities. 

    I had had the surgery in mid-September (coming up on my one year anniversary soon!) and I had a partial cast for a week after surgery, and the. Switched back to my walking boot. I was non-weight bearing for about a month, and then slowly I was able to walk in my boot more and more. I did everything the doctor said to a t, except I never did physical therapy. It was my senior year of college, and I didn't have enough to time in my day to do anything. I had a checkup in December, and the doctor said that the bone had completely healed, and that I was able to go back to using my foot normally again, like running, jumping, all thenthings I couldn't do before. I had another checkup in May, and he said everything was great and fine and I haven't been back since. 

    After the the surgery and I started walking on it, I noticed the swelling wasn't going down all that much in my foot. It still looked like a grapefruit was growing under my skin. The doctor said it could take a year for the swelling to go down. The swelling has gone down, but not back to its original size and shape. I had to go buy new tennis shoes that came in a wider size, and I still can barely tie the laces. I could see that being a problem more for the guitar and piano work that you do, just because it might be a hinderance. 

    I also have have good pain days and bad pain days. The weather can really mess with my foot, which is a huge problem when you live in the U.S. in the northeast. Rain and cold days are the worst for whatever reason, but I just try to rest on those days and do what I can. Also, lots of use will be difficult. I was student teaching in January until May when I graduated, and now I clean all the time, so my foot gets a lot of use. It's also my driving foot, so I can't even rest it in the car. A lot of use with few rest breaks can be difficult. If I know I'm going to be walking or moving a lot with no time to sit down, I make sure I have Tylenol or Advil with me. If that's not an option, then I try to get creative to solve the problem. For example, I went on a family trip to DC, and we did a TON of walking, with NO breaks. To make it easier while touring the National Monuments, we rented bikes and biked our way around. This helped me to get off of my foot a little, while also helping us to move significantly quicker. I also wear an ankle brace to help support my foot and ankle (which is also significantly weaker since I skipped therapy) and that helps it to hurt a little less as well. 

    The only other really big problem I have is sometimes, depending on what shoes I'm wearing or how my foot is moving, I can feel the plate and screws in my foot. It's a strange feeling, and it's not one I'm sure I'll ever get used to, but I deal with it as it comes and I make the best if it. 

    I know now this post was long, but I hope it helped you to think about al of the things I didn't think about before I had my surgery. I wish you good luck, and I hope everything works out for you!!

  • Posted

    I would be interested in knowing how your wrist is coming along since you posted this. I'm a guitar player and I was in a serious wreck 3 years ago. I had a really bad break at my wrist. I had some other major problems, so like yours they put in place the best they could and then wrapped it. Due to the extent of my injuries it was another 2 weeks before I was able to have the plate installed. That being said they did a pretty good job I think at setting it. I can still play but on the neck my pinky and ring finger abilities have been considerably reduced. If you have found any good solutions or cheats I would love to hear. All I've done so far is just try as hard as I can

  • Posted


    Hope all is good with your wrist now! Wow a five year gap, I'm actually about to reach a five year gap since I hurt my wrist (2012) - I got an ulna styloid process fracture. It was not treated correctly as my doctor thought to just leave it and I guess he thought it would heal on its own. What was your ulna fracture called? Present day, my fracture has not healed correctly.  I wonder if my fracture was similar to yours.

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