Thumb Sprain

What is a Thumb Sprain?

A thumb sprain is an injury to one of the thumb ligaments.  Ligaments are strong bands of connective tissue which connect one bone to another across a joint to give the joint stability.​ Thumb sprains can range in severity from a grade I (partial) tear which will have pain but there will be no laxity of the ligament, to a grade III tear, in which the ligament is completely torn.

There is a ligament on both sides of the thumb MCP joint but the most injured one is the ulnar collateral ligament on the side closest to the index finger.  This is a very common sports injury resulting from falls onto the thumb which force the thumb into an extreme position.

Signs and Symptoms of a Thumb Sprain

A thumb sprain usually results in severe swelling and pain around the joint.  Thumb movement will be painful especially during gripping and the thumb may feel weak.

Sprained Thumb Treatment

It is important to have your jammed thumb assessed by a hand therapist to determine the extent of the injury to the ligament.  Grade I and II sprains can be treated in a custom-made splint which is worn for up to 6 weeks.  It is important to immobilise the joint in a well-fitting splint to keep tension off the ligament and allow it to heal.  Grade III ligament tears will usually require surgery to repair the torn ligament.

Following the appropriate time in a splint, our hand therapists will assist you with restoring full range of motion and strength to your thumb.  To help ensure a safe return to sport, we can make smaller protective splints to be worn under strapping and show you appropriate strapping to help prevent re-injury.