If you’re one of the 80 million people who own a dog in America, all the fun you have with your pet could be dangerous. You may not love playing fetch with a ball or toy as much as your dog does, but that time spent together may spell more than just good exercise. It may sound funny, but injuring your hand or wrist is anything but.
Tom Demas was teaching his dog, scout, how to retrieve a whiffle ball a few months ago, when a moment of inattention led to a serious injury.
“Scout went that way and my finger stayed right here with my hand,” Demas said. “All of a sudden I felt this tremendous pain and ripping in my finger.”
The pain sent Demas to see hand specialist Dr. Mark Cohen, MD, Hand, Wrist and Elbow Surgeon at Midwest Orthopedics at Rush in Chicago.
He diagnosed a boutonniere deformity, which is an injury to the tendon that straightens the finger.
Demas’s case is unusual, but orthopedists Dr. Cohen and John Fernandez, MD, Hand, Wrist and Elbow Surgeon at Midwest Orthopedics at Rush, are seeing more people with pretty serious injuries from their dogs, and not from bites.
“You’ll actually grab the dog by the collar and the dog will pull away and will jerk in a certain way, and you basically will twist the finger because it’s trapped underneath the dog collar,” Dr. Fernandez said. “It will result in a fracture or a dislocation.”
“People talk on their cell phones, they hold the leash and they’re looking at the dog, but their dog jumps, and they slip,” Dr. Cohen explained.
Both doctors have simple ways to avoid dog-caused mishaps: don’t wrap the leash around your hand or wrist; don’t put your fingers under the collar. And probably number one: pay attention. Dogs don’t always do what you think they will.
Demas was lucky and avoided surgery with splints and occupational therapy.
He and Scout are still best play pals, but here’s his number one tip.
“Never put your finger in a whiffle ball. Bad idea.”
Another danger: if your dog gets into a tussle that’s more than good natured with another dog, never insert yourself into the fight. Instead, if your dog is leashed, pull him or her back to you.