What is a thumb sprain?
When the thumb is bent out of it’s normal range of movement (usually backwards), damage occurs to the ligaments supporting the joint at the bottom of the thumb (metacarpo-phalangeal joint).
It is common in skiing, contact sports and ball sports such as basketball and netball.
What are the symptoms?
- Pain when the thumb is bent backwards.
- Pain in the web of the thumb when it is moved.
- Swelling over the joint at the bottom of the thumb.
- Laxity and instability in the joint.
What can the athlete do?
- Rest. A good taping technique can help the joint rest by providing support and preventing further damage.
- Apply Ice – this will help reduce pain and swelling. Never apply ice directly to the skin as it may burn the skin. A wet tea towel or similar should prevent this.
- Compress with a compression support bandage.
What can a sports injury specialist or doctor do?
- Check the injury to rule out a total rupture of the ligament.
- Advise on mobilization exercises.
- Operate if required.
How long will it take to heal?
- Most athletes are able to return to sport within 4 to 6 weeks depending on severity of injury – sometimes sooner
- It is important that strengthening exercises are done to restore stability and prevent re-injury.
- If the injury is not treated properly then there is a greater risk of re-injury and permanent instability which will eventually require surgery.