View Full Version : Late 1800s medical treatment for broken hand from fistfight?

09-20-2015, 07:31 PM
Well, my MC just managed to break her hand punching a police officer who hit her son. With some assistance she and her son escape the altercation and are now trying to get out of town. Can anyone with medical experience help me out with (a) How limiting this injury will be in terms of typical daily activities? and (b) what late-1800s-era medical treatment for this sort of injury would look like? Splint? Cast? A bottle of whiskey and a pat on the back?

For context, my novel is alternate world historical fantasy, but it's a very low-magic world so I'm trying to keep things realistic. It's a vaguely western-like setting: the characters are in a tiny town on the frontier and are travelling a lot by foot and on horseback.

09-20-2015, 08:48 PM
Which bone(s) were broken and how badly?

Controlling reigns on a horse could be difficult depending on how the horse is trained and how bad the break is.

King Neptune
09-20-2015, 11:00 PM
She must have brittle bones. I would guess that a finger would get broken most easily. The treatment would be similar to what's done now; a splint would have been used.

09-21-2015, 01:14 AM
She must have brittle bones.

I thought broken bones in the hand were pretty common for people who don't have experience with fighting? But if readers are going to look at this oddly then maybe I should change it...

King Neptune
09-21-2015, 02:40 AM
I thought broken bones in the hand were pretty common for people who don't have experience with fighting? But if readers are going to look at this oddly then maybe I should change it...

I have heard of it, but not many. Women usually can't punch hard enough to break anything. There is one way that results in a broken thumb as often as not; that is when someone punches with the thumb inside the fist, tucked behind the curled index finger.

09-21-2015, 05:43 AM

09-21-2015, 06:25 AM
First question, what do you need for the story? A sprain, a fractured finger, numerous bone breaks, torn tendons, bleeding... All are possible outcomes but none are absolute. If you just need pain, a bad bruise can do it for a few days. If you need crippling for life, that's possible as well.


09-21-2015, 11:34 AM
She must have brittle bones.

Even pro fighters will protect their hands if pushed into a non-wrapped scenario. If Mike Tyson's fist can break on another man's head, then certainly a non-violent woman (with typically small, more fragile and very un-'hardened' bones) can easily break her hand on a man's face. Crack that man in the forehead and she could do all kinds of damage. Broken hands in barfights, no matter how 'tough' some of these studs think they are, is a common occurrence. Its not going to look odd.

09-21-2015, 07:54 PM
In part of a Spike Lee movie that I saw several years ago there was a black guy fighting a white guy. They seemed to both be street guys in good shape and I was curious how Spike would orchestrate the fight. He made the white guy win but only after the black guy hurt his hand. He probably had race on his mind so I'm not saying it's realistic but there's that...

09-21-2015, 08:15 PM
And T.I. "f*cked" his hand up fighting Floyd Mayweather.


09-21-2015, 09:31 PM
A boxer break is not unusual (4th and or 5th metacarpal). I'd see a guy who sobered up the next day and came in because his hand hurt. "Make a fist," and the last 1-2 knuckles sort of bend into the fist and sort of disappear.

"Bar fight?"
Yeah," he'd say sheepishly.
"What's the other guy look like?"
He'd perk up and say, "Busted jaw!"

In the big scheme of things untreated boxer breaks hurt for a month or two gradually healing making it hard to grip anything and heal with a cosmetic deformity of a knuckle or 2 appearing to disappear when one makes a fist. At least it's cosmetic if your occupation doesn't require really good dexterity. So a surgeon or artist, I'm sure that there are other occupations, would be best off having it set.