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Wrist Injury
A Man Question from a Swedish Boxer

I now generally write an article a month before it appears on this site. However, when I get a training or injury query from an active fighter it always goes to the front.

Hey James,

My name is Fredrik and I am a 25 year old swedish boxer currently having an wrist injury. I was just looking through the internet in hope of finding some help for the injury that I have when I stumbled upon your 15 tips.

The Boxer’s Wrist

I have been visiting various "professionals" but none have been able to help me which is why I am reaching out to you now. I have been training boxing heavily for about 1 year and I started getting pain on the thumb side of the wrist about 6 months ago. The pain is located about 10 cm further down the wrist which lead me to think that my injury could be something called "intersection syndrom" or oarsmans wrist.

The pain always goes away when I rest my wrist but always comes back whenever I start punching again. I had a break for about 2 months where I could not feel any pain what so ever, but when I recently started again it slowly started coming back. I am aware that my punching power have gotten significantly better since I started 1 year ago where I have a lot of power for weighing 80kgs. I have pretty thin wrists which might also be a cause.

What I wanted to ask is if you have any recommendations for how to get rid of the pain which is seriously making me depressed due to it disturbing my focus completely during training sessions. Would padding/taping the wrist be of any help and could a heavy padding on the knuckles help as a shock absorber for the wrist?

Also, the pain of course comes from punching heavy bags and other peoples gloves (we do not always have mitts available so we use gloves).

I would greatly appreciate any tips and I hope you can make any sense of the above text that I am writing in a sleepy mode.

Thank you in advance!



James' Advice

Fredrik, I am not a medical doctor and am not aware of "intersection syndrome."

I have received numerous injuries to the thumb side of the wrist, where blood flow and nerve communication are both intense. This has happened in boxing and stick fighting and knife dueling.

I will address the points in your email from top to bottom.

You do not specify which wrist, so I am assuming this to be your power hand, or rear hand. However, you will eventually hurt both wrists as your power improves and the repetition of random contact anomalies [a heavy bag bucking, for instance] continue to increase the odds of injury. My left and right wrist are currently bothering me in the same place, but between the wrist bone and thumb rather than along the tendon further down the radial bone. I have permanent injuries to both wrists and am 55 and still hitting the heavy bag, so you should be fine after another year of careful training.

According to Doctor Estwanick, former U.S.A. Boxing Olympic team doctor, connective tissue injuries require 10-12 months to heal and never improve beyond 80% of original POTENTIAL.

Stop training "heavily" and start training smartly.

Do not engage in team training with a group or partner who "push" you. If your training situation is like this, train solo in the mirror. You are injured, so act like it. This means:

-Warm up your wrist before training.

-Increase your hours of training.

-Stop hitting the heavy bag, for now.

-Double your rope-skipping rounds.

-Triple your shadow boxing rounds.

-Replace your heavy bag rounds with light bag rounds.

-Never punch mitts.

-Never punch gloves.

-Do not throw hook punches. A boxer with only 1 year should only be throwing jabs and straights, no hooks or uppercuts.

-At 1 year in, your footwork probably needs a lot of work. Replace all mitt and glove hitting rounds with footwork rounds in which you do not punch, but rather move and defend.

-Throw 10,000 straight punches [1] at the mirror with each hand or in the air, without locking your elbows [never lock elbows] with your fist at a diagonal orientation. Do not strike with the thumb up until the wrist is healed and never punch with the thumb up unless you are hitting a target higher than your shoulder. Do not punch with the palm facing the floor, except when throwing below your shoulder line, but with the thumb halfway rotated up. Punches with the palm facing the floor will strain the tendons that stretch over the metacarpals of the 4 fingers just like your thumb tendon is strained.

The 3/4 fist punch is demonstrated in the last third of the following video. The thumb-side wrist injury is discussed at 3:49.

-For hitting light bags use MMA gloves with the wrist pad cinched up tight behind the thumb.

-Ice your wrist after training.


1. Figure about 50 punches per hand per round.

To Your Specific Points

1. A thin-wristed man with good power should wrap like so:

gauze from wrist to knuckles, with your wrapping reference point always the base of the thumb. Wrap a hybrid cotton-elastic wrap from the thumb and back of hand [none on knuckles] down the wrist, forming a soft cast, with 2 mm space between each rotation of the wrist wrap.

Do not load the knuckles with padding, this will increase wrist torque.

Do take a wide athletic or duct tape one turn around the wrist just behind the thumb after wrapping. Your wrap at the thumb base should be so thick as to prevent the joint from compressing.

2. Mitt training is stupid unless done with coach and fighter with them both the same height and weight. If there is any imbalance here, coach or fighter will get injuries, the fighter to his wrist and the coach to his elbows and shoulders. A boxer should never practice hitting gloves or hands, but face and body. Mitt drills retards time and measure.

In order to minimize elbow injury and make boxers feel powerful, commercial boxing coaches bring the mitt forward and down to meet the punch, which makes a fighter miss in a fight buy retarding range perception and timing acuity and also stresses the tendon at the base of the punching thumb. This is like sighting gun in for 50 yards which is intended for use at 150 yards. Using a glove as mitt makes this even worse as more weight pressures down on the base of the punching thumb. Abandon all mitt and glove hitting yesterday! Mitts were only invented to use in dressing rooms to warm up when no equipment is available.

3. Stay away from heavy bags until you can hit the speed bag and double-ended bag each 3 rounds without pain. A heavy bag which is hung from a chain link only, should not be hit. Hit heavy bags which hang from rope and or spring attachments to avoid bucking.

Once the wrist feels good punching light bags, practice slapping the heavy bag at head level. Do not slap a heavy bag with a palm strike lower than your shoulder or you will jam the thumb. Only do this when warmed up and wrapped. Eventually, once your wrist is fully healed and developed you can slap without wrist wraps on. I slap wooden beams, concrete walls, steel beams, telephone poles and door frames to check my wrists and to send vibrations through the bones, letting me know which ones are cracked and also strengthening the hand and arm by subjecting it to moderate stress. do this gradually.

4. Cross training. The boxer develops wrist strength by progressing along the power curve while his wrists are braced by wraps. The wrist should also be developed through cross training with dumbbells, rope-skipping, wrist rotating with open and closed hand, Indian club training, kettle bell training, and stick striking. You should consider viewing my stick fighting videos at Lancaster Agonistics. From age 36 to 52 I increased my wrist thickness by 1 inch and my forearm thickness by two inches through stick-fighting training. As a young man you could do this in 2-4 years. The video below shows bat training and at the end, slapping the bag, which is how I like to start training a boxer to punch.

5. Fill a bucket full of rice, sand or dried beans and practice pushing your naked fist slowly through this substance. Eventually practice bending over this bucket and punching into it slowly. Recently I do this by bending over and punching moist turf.

Above all, Fredrik, do not take a break from boxing training, just take a break from contacting punching with the injured hand. Spend even more time in the gym working on the fine points of the science. For 3 years I could not spar, hook or hit the heavy bag because I had torn the ligament that keeps the left shoulder blade attached to the back. I could not even read a book without pain. It hurts to this day. I also had a lumbar disc rupture in the same period which prevented me from throwing with power. So I shadow boxed for 3 years and practiced jab variations from both sides and became a much better boxer. I basically only learned how to coach by guiding myself through three years of rehab and developed a professional level of form and footwork, though my shoulder and back injuries prevented me from ever becoming a pro.

As a young boxer I am certain you have much to learn in terms of footwork. Devote yourself to moving your feet like Ray Robinson or Willy Pep and become a master of skipping rope and defensive form while your wrist heals. This injury is probably a result of the system you are training under being crude, heavy-handed and short-sighted. Your coach should be constantly checking your wrists and hands to make sure there is no problem and should have already implemented some of the measures above. You should not be left to seek out this information. Fredrik, every great fighter, at some point, had to become his own coach to reach his potential. Think of this wrist pain as an opportunity to make yourself into a better weapon.

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