Skip to Content

Scaphoid (Wrist) Fracture

Scaphoid fractures are breaks in the scaphoid bone, which is located where your wrist bends below the thumb.

Some scaphoid bone fractures require surgery to prevent arthritis and other long-term problems. So, if you think you might have a scaphoid fracture, you should seek care right away.

Looking for Scaphoid Fracture Care?

On this page

What Is a Scaphoid Fracture? 

Doctors define a scaphoid fracture as a break in the scaphoid bone of the wrist. This bone sits at the base of your thumb.

Despite its small size, a scaphoid fracture is serious. The low blood supply to this bone makes long-term pain, stiffness, and weakness more likely.

But, early treatment and follow-up care can prevent these problems from happening.

How common is a scaphoid fracture?

About 10% of breaks in the hand are scaphoid fractures. Around 60% to 70% of all breaks in the wrist bones (carpal bones) occur in the scaphoid bone.

What are the types of scaphoid fractures?

Your doctor may refer to a scaphoid fracture as:

  • Proximal, meaning the break is closer to the arm.
  • Distal, meaning the break is closer to the thumb.

Because blood flows into the scaphoid bone from the thumb, proximal breaks are more serious. That part of the bone is more likely to lose blood supply.

All scaphoid fractures can be:

  • Displaced — The bone broke and then moved out of place.
  • Non-displaced — The bone broke but is in the correct position.

What causes scaphoid fractures? 

Scaphoid fractures often happen when people fall on an outstretched hand. Contact sports and car accidents can also cause scaphoid fractures.

What are scaphoid risk factors and complications?

Scaphoid fractures are more common in men, and adults. They can lead to long-term problems if not properly treated.

Scaphoid fracture risk factors 

Scaphoid fracture risk factors include:

  • Age. Scaphoid fractures tend not to happen before age 10 or after age 70. In children and older adults, the arm bone near the scaphoid bone is more likely to break.
  • Those who smoke are at a higher risk of a scaphoid fracture, and poor healing after the break.

Complications of scaphoid fractures

If not properly treated, scaphoid fractures can lead to:

  • Arthritis. (It may not show up until years after the injury).
  • Deformity of the wrist.
  • Loss of mobility in the wrist.
  • Weakness in the wrist.

How can I prevent a scaphoid fracture?

Studies show that wrist guards can prevent scaphoid fractures.

You should wear wrist guards during activities where you have a high risk of falling on your wrist, such as skating, skateboarding, snowboarding, and rollerblading. If you're a beginner especially — don't skip wearing wrist guards.

Back to top

What Are the Signs and Symptoms of a Scaphoid Wrist Fracture?

Symptoms of a scaphoid bone fracture may not show up right away. But within days of injury, you may notice:

  • Bruising on the thumb side of your wrist.
  • Pain on the thumb side of your wrist. It's usually worse when you pinch your thumb and fingers, grab something, or push or pull something.
  • Swelling on the thumb side of your wrist.
  • Tenderness when you touch the area at the bottom of your thumb.
  • Weakness in the wrist.

When should I see a doctor about my scaphoid fracture symptoms?

See your doctor right away if you have any scaphoid fracture symptoms after an injury. Pain in the wrist may be mild at first, which is why some people may not think they need to see a doctor. But, there's a high risk of the bone not healing without surgery if you delay treatment by several weeks.

Back to top

How Do You Diagnose a Scaphoid Fracture?

Orthopaedic doctors and other providers can diagnose scaphoid fractures through a physical exam and imaging.

What to expect during your visit

Your doctor will want to know how your injury happened, and about your symptoms. They'll ask you to move your wrist to assess stiffness and whether certain movements worsen pain. They'll also press on the area below the thumb to see if it's tender.

Tests to diagnose a scaphoid fracture

If your doctor thinks you have a wrist fracture, they'll order imaging tests, such as:

Sometimes, scaphoid fractures don't show up on an x-ray right away. If the x-ray doesn't show a fracture, your doctor may order a CT scan or MRI, as these tests are more accurate. Or, they may suggest you get another x-ray after a week or two.

Back to top

How Do You Treat a Scaphoid Fracture? 

Treatment for a scaphoid fracture depends on:

  • A person's age and overall health.
  • A person's work and lifestyle. Surgery may be better for those who need to regain full use of their wrists quickly, such as athletes and those who work with their hands.
  • How long it took for a diagnosis after the scaphoid fracture.
  • If the bone is displaced.
  • Whether the break occurred in the distal or proximal part of the bone.


Most people need to wear a cast or splint for 6 weeks to 6 months to heal a scaphoid fracture.

The doctor will do an x-ray to ensure the bone has fused together before taking off the cast.

Surgery for a scaphoid fracture

If your scaphoid fracture requires surgery, the surgeon will put the scaphoid bone together using screws, pins, or wire. You'll get general anesthesia, so you'll be asleep and won't feel pain during the surgery.

After surgery, you'll wear a cast or splint for at least 6 weeks, to speed healing.

Some proximal or displaced fractures may need a bone graft. Your surgeon will remove broken fragments of the scaphoid bone and then attach a small piece of bone taken from elsewhere in your body.

Physical therapy for a scaphoid fracture

All scaphoid fractures require physical therapy. Your doctor, nurse, or physical therapist will teach you exercises that will gradually improve your wrist's strength and flexibility.

How effective is treatment for scaphoid fractures?

Most scaphoid fractures heal fully, especially with early treatment.

Scaphoid fractures that don't fuse with a cast or splint may need surgery. If you continue to have pain or weakness after scaphoid fracture treatment, see your doctor.

Back to top