“Boxer’s Fracture is a colloquial term for a fracture of one of the metacarpal bones of the hand. Classically, the fracture occurs transversely across the metacarpal neck, after the patient strikes an object with a closed fist. Alternate terms include scrapper’s fracture or bar room fracture. ”
When I teach striking for self defense and defensive tactics I advise against striking the head with a closed fist, for various reasons related to safety and tactical performance – and in defensive tactics, sometimes the simple optics of the act. I’ve seen too many folks in the aftermath of fights dealing with hand injuries, including officers who punched resisting suspects in the head, to not take the potential for a hand injury lightly.
Outside of that personal experience, a cursory review of available popular information shows that a particular class of fracture of the hand is literally referred to as a “Boxer’s Fracture.”
And Googling “MMA fighters and broken hands” or “boxers and broken hands,” one notices that even the best trained, most highly skilled professional fighters also occasionally have problems with them – sometimes even when wearing gloves
Things that make you go hmmm….
But thinking on those old-timey bare knuckle boxers, they didn’t bust their hands up like this, did they? And their fights could go on for forty or even seventy or more rounds! How could they fight that long, with bare knuckles, and not hurt their hands?
Bare knuckle boxing is still being conducted, and has even been offered as a potential alternative to gloved boxing due to the inherent danger of hitting people hard and repeatedly in the head when wearing padded hand protection.
What about self defense? In an unarmed scuffle, if you are at all tough, a broken hand will not likely mean that you will be unable to continue fighting, or even prevail in the encounter, so isn’t the point kind of moot?
Well, no. The essential nature of self defense is not, and should never be confused with, mano-a-mano fisticuffs, in either the ring or the street.
Self defense includes so many other elements and potentials that must be taken into account if we are engaging with appropriately integrated and transdisciplinary combatives. An empty hand fight, or resistive arrest could go to weapons at any time, as some change in the nature of the confrontation could necessitate a need for a fighting tool: lethal or less lethal. And while I may be fine continuing to pummel someone’s face with my own mangled hand, I’m not so sure I’d want to be attempting to access a Taser, or knife, or draw and manipulate a pistol, or attempt to retain my weapon with that self-same damaged hand. Particularly because the very need to deploy such a tool means that the stakes of the confrontation have just gone way up – not to mention the stress that goes with that turn of events.
And now let’s say during this continuing confrontation, I have a weapons’ malfunction. While I may still be able to fire a pistol with a broken hand, do I really want to be trying to clear, say, a double feed induced from a poor grip, with one?
Even a reload could be problematic…
Going further, should I incur other injuries from the now lethal threat, how will my ability to treat them be impacted by having a broken hand? Self-application of tourniquets and getting them tight enough is tough enough without the additional difficulty induced by a hand injury.
And what if I had to administer aid to another? A friend, or loved one?
Not to mention the issue of blood borne pathogens. One of the marked disconnects in the defensive communities’ understanding of real life confrontations is the need to be concerned for bleeding on the part of an assailant and ourselves. Punching people in the head and face seem to cause more bleeding from both the target and the abraded or split knuckles of the striker. While at times some bleeding may be unavoidable, given the choice to use tactics less likely to result in the rapid introduction of nasty contaminants into an already chaotic and uncontrolled encounter, it would seem the better option.
Mindful of all these things, I’ve reconsidered relying on techniques that have a recognized propensity for causing hand injuries, even to very experienced fighters when they have been without gloves, and even when some of those fighters are wearing them, in favor of those other options.