Hand Therapy Helps Pro Fisherman Get Ready for Season

When Occassional Pain Becomes a Painful Problem

In May 2016, Florida Gulf Coast University (FGCU) student and professional kayak fisherman, Conner Thompson, injured his right wrist which escalated from occasional aching to a painful problem.

Tarpon season was in full swing, so Conner spent most of his time out on the water in his Hobie kayak. “I didn’t meet my goal—I landed more than 20 tarpon, more than 100 pounds each; this aggravated my already painful wrist and forced me to wear a brace,” Conner says. “I was stubborn and dealt with the pain, until class resumed in August when I took five intensive writing courses; that’s when I could no longer ignore it.”

Conner underwent surgery for a triangular fibrocartilage complex (TFCC) tear in his right wrist. After surgery, Conner’s surgeon, Sandra Collins, M.D., recommended occupational and certified hand therapist, Paul Zavala.

As one of 6,284 certified hand therapists worldwide, Paul specializes in advanced treatment of hands and upper extremity. “Conner had pain in his right dominant wrist, and weakness gripping his fishing pole, along with writing,” Paul says.

Diagnosing the exact cause of a wrist injury can be difficult; many factors can lead to wrist pain. “I frequently use power tools on my lawn tractors, trucks, ATVs and swamp buggy,” Conner says. “Paul said too much torqueing force could have caused my injury.”

Now, Conner is preparing for advanced demands on his wrist (kayak fishing). “Advanced strengthening and conditioning, activity stimulation, along with education on proper joint movement and injury prevention is all a part of therapy.”

Conner has adjusted to primarily using his opposite hand for now, and is gradually reintroducing his affected hand to activities. “I haven’t touched a wrench or power tool since surgery; I know I will try to use both hands and hurt it before it’s healed,” says Conner. “I’ve pretty much learned to be left-handed, so I’m back to doing almost everything I was doing before.”

Twice a week, Conner meets with Paul. “My schedule is packed, so I’m grateful he works with me as much as possible,” Conner says. Conner’s injured wrist has not slowed him down one bit; he is still dedicated to his passions. “Everyone looks at me weird when I tell them I still kayak fish as often as possible, but that’s why the Hobie and FGCU kayak fishing teams keep me around,” Conner says.

Tags: occupational therapy, hand therapy, orthopedic surgery