Q. Last week, I was playing flag football. While throwing the ball, a player hit my thumb, causing it to snap outwards.
I felt a pop with subsequent severe pain. My thumb feels “loose” and I can not grip a football. X-rays at the urgent care center showed that nothing was broken and it was diagnosed as a sprain.
My thumb has not improved and I was wondering how long it should take to heal so that I can go back to playing sports?
A. The ulnar collateral ligament is located at the base of the thumb and is a major stabilizer of that joint.
This ligament is commonly injured in football in the manor that you described or in skiing when one falls on the ski pole and the thumb snaps outward.
If a partial tear to this ligament occurs, it may be able to be treated with a cast or a brace. If the ligament tears completely, it usually requires surgery to repair and it takes at least six to eight weeks to heal.
You should see an orthopedic surgeon or hand specialist as quickly as possible as timely care results in a quicker recovery. In addition to the physical exam, the doctor may order stress X-rays or an MRI scan to confirm the diagnosis and help plan the best treatment options.
Dr. Harlan Selesnick is team physician of the Miami Heat and director of Miami Sports Medicine Fellowship, Doctors Hospital. Send your questions to HarlanS@baptisthealth.net.