Many Hand and Upper Extremity Injuries Tied to Power Saw, Axe Use


Bobby Chhabra pic
Bobby Chhabra

Holding leadership responsibilities within the University of Virginia (UVA) Health System, Dr. Bobby Chhabra serves as team physician with UVA Athletics. Experienced in repetitive motion injuries, Dr. Bobby Chhabra treats patients with conditions of the upper extremities and hand.

Recent research points to increased risk for hand and finger injury among those who use woodcutting equipment around the home. As reported in Reuters, the period between 2006 and 2016 witnessed more than 16,000 nonfatal visits to emergency departments due to power saw injuries and nearly 2,000 related to axes.

A majority of those involving power saws were associated with the phenomenon of kickback, where the rotating chain hits a hard object while in fast motion and creates a strong, sudden opposing force. This can impact the device operator’s ability to control the power saw, and result in lacerations. With axes, the issue ties to swinging mechanics, with the momentum generated through the body easily leading to shoulder back, wrist, hand, and elbow injuries.

Medical professionals urge those using such equipment to wear proper protective gear, and to avoid high-risk jobs.


Lillian T. Pratt – Generous Benefactor of Virginia Institutions


Lillian T. Pratt pic
Lillian T. Pratt

Bobby Chhabra, MD, maintains a number of appointments in the University of Virginia Health System, including chair of the Department of Orthopaedic Surgery. A board-certified orthopaedic hand surgeon, Bobby Chhabra, MD, holds the distinction of being the health system’s Lillian T. Pratt Distinguished Professor of Orthopaedic Surgery.

The professorship is named in honor of a generous benefactor of education and art institutions who established a trust agreement with the University of Virginia prior to her death in 1947. The professorship was created with assistance from Lillian Pratt’s estate in 1976.

Many aspects of Lillian Pratt’s life remain unknown, but she is believed to have been born in 1876, most likely in Philadelphia. By the turn of the century, she had made her way to Tacoma, Washington, where she worked as a stenographer and met John Lee Pratt, an engineer and executive at General Motors. Mr. Pratt became Lillian’s husband in 1917, and the couple eventually settled in Virginia.

For much of the rest of her life, Lillian Pratt pursued a passion for collecting Russian and Faberge art. By 1946, her collection had grown to 475 items, the majority of which she purchased from galleries in New York City.

Lillian Pratt established a trust agreement with the University of Virginia in 1943 and subsequently extended her generosity to the Virginia Museum of Fine Art. In 1947, two months after Lillian Pratt’s death, the museum received her Faberge collection, which visitors to the museum can view today.

Sports Trauma – Upper Extremities

Bobby Chhabra pic
Bobby Chhabra

Dr. Bobby Chhabra, a fellowship-trained hand surgeon, serves the Department of Orthopedic Surgery at the University of Virginia in his capacities as chair and Lillian T. Pratt distinguished professor. In this role and as team doctor for UVA’s sports programs, Dr. Bobby Chhabra provides upper extremity care for patients who have experienced athletic injuries.

According to research, sport injuries to the upper extremities rank highly in frequency, second only to those of the knee. In fact, a study published in the British Journal of Sports Medicine indicates that while knee trauma accounts for about 28 percent of sports injuries, upper extremity trauma is not far behind at 23 percent. In terms of specific body parts, injuries are most common to the shoulder but also often occur in the wrist or elbow.

In the case of the shoulder, athletes can harm themselves by way of repetitive, stressful motions that occur in such sports contexts as swimming, pitching a baseball, or lifting weights. As a result, athletes can incur injuries in two main shoulder-harm categories.

The first, called instability, occurs when the shoulder joint gets knocked out of position, sometimes giving rise to dislocation. The second, called impingement, happens when muscles scrape on the acromion, a portion of the shoulder blade.

Causes and Treatment of Skier’s Thumb

Skier's Thumb pic
Skier’s Thumb

Dr. Bobby Chhabra, chair of the Department of Orthopaedics at the University of Virginia, also leads as division head of the department’s hand and upper extremity surgery practice. Dr. Bobby Chhabra further applies his expertise as a hand surgery consultant for the University of Virginia’s Department of Athletics, having treated numerous sports-related injuries related to the upper extremities.

The term “skier’s thumb” refers to an injury of the ulnar collateral ligament (UCL) of the thumb. As its name indicates, it most commonly occurs as a result of a fall in downhill skiing, when the force of impact causes the ski pole to pull on and even tear the ligament. This level of force is unlikely to be present when a patient falls on an empty hand, though it is possible for any injury that cause a backward or sideways bend of the thumb to sufficiently stress the ligament.

If the ligament is only partially torn, the patient may be able to fully recover with immobilization of the thumb. If a full rupture is present, surgery is typically necessary. The surgeon will make a small cut in the thumb to expose the UCL, to which he or she will then apply sutures that re-attach ligament to bone.

Most patients recover full thumb strength following UCL surgery. In the occasional cases that end in chronic instability, a follow-up fusion procedure may be necessary to guard against the development of arthritis.