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What is a Triangular Fibrocartilage Complex (TFCC) Tear?

The triangular fibrocartilage complex (TFCC) is cartilage structure that provides stability to the outside (small finger side) of the wrist joint. This structure supports the small carpal bones of the wrist and also provides congruency and stability between the two long bones of the forearm (radius and ulna) during rotational movements of the wrist and forearm. This cartilage structure can be pinched and injured acutely between the bones of the forearm and wrist during a sudden abrupt fall onto an outstretched hand or more chronically due to repetitive movements of the wrist, such as movements required in most racquet sports


  • Fall onto an outstretched hand or arm
  • Repetitive wrist motion; often associated with racquet sports
  • Repetitive wrist impact; seen in sports similar to gymnastics, tumbling, acrobatics, and football

Signs and Symptoms

  • Pain on the outside of the wrist, towards the base of the 5th finger
  • Increased pain with side-to-side wrist movement
  • Occasional swelling over outside aspect of wrist
  • May experience painful clicking in wrist
  • Decrease in grip and wrist strength due to pain


Treatment for TFCC tears can be treated conservatively or surgically, depending on the severity of the tear. Conservative treatment includes a period of rest from aggravating activities with additional immobilization through the utilization of a wrist brace or cast. The main objective of conservative treatment is to decrease pain and inflammation, especially following an acute injury. In addition to immobilization and rest, hand therapy focusing on wrist range of motion as well as wrist and hand strengthening is important to maintain normal wrist function throughout the period of rest.

Other conservative treatments include use of anti-inflammatories to reduce pain and/or a steroid injection into the TFCC. If conservative treatment fails, surgical intervention to repair the tear may be necessary if continued participation in physical activity is desired. The type of surgery necessary to either fix or remove damaged pieces of cartilage is a decision that is made by the orthopedic surgeon and is decided on a case-by-case basis.

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