A sprain thumb is a common injury that is characterized by the tearing of soft connective tissues such as the ligaments and cartilage in the joint of the thumb. Another common term is “Skier’s Thumb” and the sport that has the highest prevalence is as you have guessed, skiing. Sprained thumbs will lead to swelling and tenderness in the finger and will happen to anyone who may unfortunately experienced one of the causes mentioned below in this article.
There are 2 small bones in the thumb known as the phalanges. They join each other at the Interphalangael Joint and to the 1st metacarpal, forming 2 joints in the thumb. Each of the thumbs is in turn supported by strong connective tissues, which acts as a cushion when there is an impact force exerted. During movements such as stretching or compressing, the thumb is subjected to high forces, which may damage the connective tissues, causing them to sustain damages. This will result in the condition known as a sprained thumb.
Causes of a sprained thumb
There are numerous causes of sprained thumbs but the most common ones are during a high impact ball sports such as basketball and netball. Certain incidents will increase the risk such as the unexpected bending either forward or backwards of the thumb. Sprained thumbs can also happen due to collisions with another player at high speeds or while trying to cushion a fall with the hand. It may also occur due to overuse injuries. This will happen in people who repeatedly use the thumb for certain activities without giving sufficient recovery time to it.
Symptoms of a sprained thumb
Patients who have a sprained thumb will often go unnoticed. However, they will experience sudden sharp pain attacks during activities even after it has passed and at random intervals. Some may also suffer from stiff fingers when they wake up in the morning or after a period of rest due to the lack of mobility and movement. The pain will be mostly at the sides and top of the affected finger. In some cases, there will be a pop sound heard immediately after an injury indicating a high likelihood of a sprained thumb. Swelling and bruising will occur as fast as minutes after the injury and simple daily tasks such as tying of shoelaces or even opening a bottled drink can be near impossible.
A sprained thumb should not be ignored and should be treated immediately as it involves the connective tissues such as the ligaments. If left untreated, it may lead to long term instability of the finger joint and arthritis.