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What is a FOOSH Injury? Understanding FOOSH Injuries and How to Prevent Them

Advance With MUSC Health
June 01, 2024
Image of a man with a cane getting up from the ground.

Have you ever tripped before? Caught yourself with your hands before you hit the ground too hard, thinking you saved yourself from an injury, but somehow end up hurting your elbow, shoulder, or wrist in the process? That is what we call a F.O.O.S.H. — or just FOOSH for short.

Here, Amber Andrews MS, ATC, from MUSC Health Sports Medicine, sheds light on the common yet often misunderstood phenomenon of falling on outstretched hands. Whether you're an athlete, a senior citizen, or simply out walking your dog, understanding FOOSH injuries can help prevent and manage potential risks to your elbows, shoulders, and wrists.

What’s a FOOSH Injury?

FOOSH stands for Fall On Out-Stretched Hand, and it is typically how most people get hurt trying to save themselves from a tumble. Fooshes can happen to anyone at any time, including athletes, senior citizens, and people taking their dogs for walks.

How FOOSH Injuries Happen

This mechanism of injury is one of the most common ways people injure their hands and wrists. The elbow and shoulder are also included in the list of body parts that can be hurt when falling the incorrect way. Most people don’t correlate falling on their hands with shoulder and elbow pain, however, the force can travel up your arm when bracing yourself with your hands injuring your elbow or shoulder.

Types of FOOSH Injuries

Here are some of the most common injuries seen with FOOSHing:

  1. Bruised or fractured scaphoid. The scaphoid is a tough bone to heal and can take almost twice as long to recover compared to other bones in the body due to its lack of blood supply.
  2. Wrist sprain
  3. Distal radial fracture
  4. Fractures of the forearm and humerus
  5. Dislocations of the elbow or shoulder
  6. Secondary injuries are also common, such as SLAP tears with dislocating your shoulder and nerve damage with dislocating your elbow, plus many more.

Healing times vary with all these injuries, ranging from days to months, and some require surgical intervention. Everyone is different and so is every fall!

How To Fall Correctly and Avoid a FOOSH Injury

The embarrassment of falling stops for no one. But did you know there is a correct way to fall? A recent NBA player was just brought up on the topic of falling on an outstretched hand. While other commenters laughed at the fall, Charles Barkley demonstrated the correct way to fall in this situation: by simply avoiding bracing yourself with your hands and falling on your butt.

He also mentioned when he played for the 76ers they literally practiced how to fall correctly to avoid injury. As silly as it sounds, there are multiple resources to learn how to fall correctly with the intention of helping everyone of every age!

Want to learn more? Contact the MUSC Health Sports Medicine team.