There are many bones in and around the wrist, so the term “broken wrist” can be confusing or vague.

See Guide to Wrist Anatomy

By far, the most common type of broken wrist is a distal radius fracture, which is a break near the wrist end of the long radius bone in the forearm. This fracture often occurs as the result of a fall onto an outstretched hand.

However, there are several other possible types of wrist fractures that can occur.

In This Article:

Scaphoid Fracture Causes and Symptoms

The scaphoid is one of eight small round bones that sit in two rows in the wrist. This cashew-shaped bone is positioned near the base of the thumb, just above the long radius bone of the forearm.

As with distal radius fractures, scaphoid fractures almost always are the result of a fall onto an outstretched hand. They can also occur as the result of sports activities or car accidents.

See Causes and Risk Factors for Distal Radius Fracture

The population most at risk for a scaphoid fracture is young, active men. This group is the least likely to suffer a distal radius fracture—the more common injury—after a fall. Some experts believe this may explain their vulnerability to scaphoid fractures.

The symptom of a scaphoid fracture are sometimes hard to discern and easily mistaken for other injuries, such as a wrist sprain.

See Is My Wrist Broken or Sprained?


Scaphoid fracture symptoms include:

  • Pain on the thumb side of the wrist that is dull or deep
  • Pain or swelling located on the thumb’s “snuffbox,” which is a small depression at the base of the thumb that can be seen when the thumb is flexed away from the hand
  • Mild pain that gets worse when pinching or gripping an object

There is rarely bruising and no deformity when a scaphoid fracture occurs, which is why it may be mistaken for a sprain.

See Symptoms of Wrist Sprain

Dr. Kevin Sumida is an orthopedic surgeon specializing in sports medicine and knee and shoulder conditions. Dr. Sumida practices at OrthoVirginia, where he performs procedures such as ACL reconstruction, meniscus repair, shoulder surgery, and total hip and knee replacement.