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Young boy with soccer ball giving a thumbs up.

Thumb Injuries: Resist Urge to Pull

Author: CHKD Sports Medicine, Amy Swistak MSEd, VATL, ATC
Published Date: Tuesday, April 20, 2021

It happens. You go to catch a ball and it bends your thumb backwards. You feel immediate pain, and your first instinct is to pull on it. Well, let’s not do that. Instead, let’s take a look at what could be the actual problem.

The Thumb

The thumb has two bones, known as phalanxes, which connect to the hand at the first metacarpal. There are also two joints in the thumb, the interphalangeal joint at the middle of the thumb and the metacarpophalangeal joint at the base. Each joint has ligaments that hold the bones together. There are also tendons from the muscles that help move the thumb that run through this region as well. For our purposes though, we will stick to the bones and the joints.

Thumb Sprains

An injury to a ligament is known as a sprain. The ligaments get stretched out and can tear, which requires treatment. After initial injury, the thumb should be splinted and wrapped with a compression wrap until you can have it further evaluated. If left untreated, the injury could heal incorrectly, leading to problems such as arthritis later on in life. In some cases, thumb sprains can become severe and require surgical intervention to reattach or correct the ligaments. If you happen to pull on a sprained thumb, you may make that injury worse and pull the already stretched ligament off the bone, causing a fracture and further injury.

Thumb Fractures

Thumb fractures are also a possibility. If a fracture is suspected, the injury should be splinted and the person sent for further evaluation. If you happen to pull on a fractured thumb, you may misalign the bones at the fracture site, which could result in surgical intervention and longer recovery times.

Thumb Dislocation

If you find yourself with a dislocated thumb, it is very important to splint it as is and receive care immediately by a healthcare professional. Please do not try to relocate it yourself as you may cause more damage to the joints, bones, tendons, and the blood vessels and nerves that supply that area.

Remember, your thumb is something you need for the rest of your life. An opposing thumb is what differentiates humans from most animals. It allows us to grip, to maneuver objects, to play video games, to text and type, and loads of other activities. Keep you and your thumb safe, and remember, stop pulling on it!

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About CHKD Sports Medicine

About CHKD Sports Medicine  CHKD's sports medicine program offers the most comprehensive care for your young athlete. From diagnosis and treatment to customized rehabilitation plans, we specialize in physical therapy and injury prevention programs for active children and teens. Our team is composed of pediatric orthopedic surgeons, sports medicine specialists, physician assistants, certified athletic trainers and pediatric sports medicine physical therapists.