Hamm breaks hand in nationals

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HOUSTON (AP) — Olympic gold medalist Paul Hamm has a broken bone in his right hand, an injury that will take at least four weeks’ recovery and will keep him out of next month’s Olympic trials.

The men’s competition at the Beijing Games begins Aug. 9, 11 weeks from now.

“He won’t be able to do the Olympic trials,” said Miles Avery, Hamm’s coach. “The course of action for that is to petition him to the team. And try to prove his readiness later in the summer, closer to the games.”

USA Gymnastics officials would be almost sure to grant Hamm’s petition, provided he is healthy. The U.S. men have a final training camp July 13-22 at the Olympic Training Center in Colorado Springs, Colo.

“For the Olympics, he has an excellent chance of being 100 percent,” said Dr. James Bicos, an orthopedic surgeon who specializes in sports medicine at St. Vincent Performance Center in Indianapolis and who was with Hamm when he had X-rays yesterday morning.

Hamm is the only American man to win the all-around title at the world championships (2003) or Olympics (2004), and he has been dominant in every meet he has entered this year.

“Obviously, Paul is a prime candidate for the Olympic team, I don’t think anybody doubts that,” said Dennis McIntyre, the men’s program director for USA Gymnastics. “I think it just comes down to having a reasonable expectation that he would be able to perform at the highest level.

“He’s got the shot,” McIntyre added. “There’s enough time, and I wouldn’t count that guy out, no matter what.”

Despite the fall on parallel bars that caused the injury Thursday night, Hamm finished preliminaries at the U.S. gymnastics championships with a score of 93.450, almost four points better than anyone else. Nationals continue tonight, and the Olympic trials are June 19-22 in Philadelphia.

Indeed, Hamm was dazzling through his first five events at the U.S. championships Thursday night, taking a commanding lead. But as he flipped to do work on one rail on parallel bars, he missed catching the bar and jammed the fingers on his right hand.

Hamm fell, grimacing as he immediately grabbed his hand.

“I heard a small popping sound in the joint,” Hamm said Thursday night.

After Hamm finished his routine, USA Gymnastics medical officials spent several minutes examining him. Two large ice bags were put on his hand, and Hamm said he thought he might have dislocated his right ring finger. But X-rays revealed he had broken a bone, the fourth metacarpal in his right hand.

Avery said Hamm would return to Columbus, Ohio, on Sunday. Hamm will consult a hand specialist next week, Avery said, and they’re considering doctors in Indianapolis, Columbus, and Baltimore. Treatment options are a cast or surgery, where a plate and/or screws would be inserted.

Though Bicos said recovery time is about the same for either option — four to six weeks — Avery said Hamm will have surgery because it will allow him to get back to training sooner.

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