What is a FOOSH Injury?

Person falling with outstretched hand, demonstrating a FOOSH injury for PT Northwest Physical Therapy.


A FOOSH (Fall On an Out Stretched Hand) injury, a common consequence of falls, can significantly impact upper body function. This injury occurs when individuals instinctively use their hands to break a fall, resulting in strains, sprains, or fractures in the hand, wrist, elbow, or shoulder upon impact. While the reflex to break a fall is natural, its consequences can lead to substantial loss of function in the upper extremity. In this blog post, you will learn signs to watch for after a fall, ways to prevent FOOSH, and reasons why its important to seek medical attention right away.


  1. Fractures: Fractures in the forearm from a FOOSH are usually easy to identify. They quickly swell, bruise, and cause intense pain. Sometimes, the skin on the forearm bulges visibly, even protruding outside the body. Wrist and forearm fractures require evaluation, often needing to be realigned and casted. After casting, a guided exercise program is crucial to regain strength and motion before normal function can resume. Healing may take up to 12 weeks, and up to 20 weeks to fully recover. A skilled physical therapist can significantly speed up this process if referred promptly.
  2. Sprains: Identifying sprains from a FOOSH is more challenging. A sprain affects ligaments, crucial for joint stability, causing moderate to severe swelling, bruising, and pain. This pain might occur when moving the joint or when someone else moves it while you’re relaxed. A sprain involves tearing in a ligament, making the joint too loose for proper stability. This instability can persist for years after the initial injury, similar to a bicycle brake malfunctioning due to elongated cables. To diagnose and treat a sprain accurately, prevent further injury, and facilitate a swift recovery, an evaluation by a physical therapist is essential.
  3. Strains: Strains are also difficult to spot following a FOOSH. A strain differs from a sprain in that it occurs as a tearing of the tendon instead of a ligament. This can present like a sprain with swelling and bruising but will have a few different characteristics. Tendons attach to bone on one side and muscle on the other. Tendons therefore hurt with both passive motions, but also active motions. Strains of the wrist and hand can cause a significant loss in function with things like writing, typing, or even just holding an object in your hand. Without intervention, this can lead to progressively worsening problems like tendonitis and carpal tunnel syndrome, which may need surgical intervention if not attended to quickly.

Woman receiving treatment for FOOSH injuryPrevention

  1. Exercise Balance and Strength: Strengthening the muscles that support your upper body, particularly the arms, shoulders, and core, can significantly reduce the risk of FOOSH injuries. Incorporate exercises that enhance stability, such as yoga, Pilates, or specific weight-training routines. Agility drills and balance exercises can also improve your body’s reflexes and ability to recover from unexpected falls. By maintaining good overall strength and balance, you’ll be better equipped to prevent injuries resulting from sudden impacts.
  2. Mindful Techniques during Activities: Pay attention to your body’s signals during physical activities. When engaging in sports or activities with potential fall hazards, remain mindful of your surroundings. Use proper equipment, such as wrist guards or protective gear when appropriate, to minimize the impact of a fall. Additionally, learn how to fall safely by practicing techniques like tucking and rolling to distribute impact and reduce the strain on your hands and wrists. Being alert and adopting precautionary measures can go a long way in averting potential FOOSH injuries.
  3. Environment Awareness: Be aware of your surroundings, especially in unfamiliar or potentially hazardous environments. Scan for obstacles or uneven surfaces that might lead to a fall. Take caution on slippery or wet surfaces and to use handrails whenever available.
  4. Proper Falling Techniques: If you do fall, it’s important that you try to stay relaxed, bending your knees and elbows. Try to roll with the impact to dissipate the force across a larger area of your body rather than absorbing it all through your hands and wrists.
  5. Regular Check-ups and Conditioning: It’s important to go to your regular check-ups with a healthcare professional to evaluate bone health and joint stability. We also suggest conditioning exercises focused on improving flexibility and range of motion in the wrists and hands, reducing the likelihood of severe injuries in case of a fall.

Don’t Wait!

Remember, a FOOSH injury can happen at any age and usually requires specialized care and rehab for recovery. At PT Northwest, our experienced professionals understand these injuries inside out. We’ll craft a personalized treatment plan just for you, whether it’s specific exercises to regain strength and flexibility or therapies to ease discomfort and restore function. PT Northwest is dedicated to helping you recover.

Quick action after a FOOSH injury is crucial for the best recovery. If you’re experiencing upper extremity pain after a fall, don’t wait – seek evaluation and treatment. PT Northwest is here to provide expert guidance and care, helping you regain confidence in your physical abilities and get back to an active lifestyle. Schedule your appointment with us today by clicking here.