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Thumb Fractures

The thumb plays an important role in grasping objects, so a thumb fracture can seriously impede your ability to pick up and hold onto items. Your thumb is made up of two bones, called phalanges. These small bones connect to a larger bone in your hand, called the first metacarpal

Thumb Fractures Hero Image 2

 

The thumb plays an important role in grasping objects, so a thumb fracture can seriously impede your ability to pick up and hold onto items.

Your thumb is made up of two bones, called phalanges. These small bones connect to a larger bone in your hand, called the first metacarpal.

The most common thumb fractures involve the base of the first metacarpal and where your thumb attaches to your wrist, referred to as the carpometacarpal (CMC) joint. These types of fractures can lead to

Two specific types of fractures that affect the CMC joint are:

  • Bennet fracture: A clean break at the base of the thumb involving the joint.
  • Rolando fracture: Occurs when the bone is shattered in the same location.

 

 

 

 

 

What causes Thumb Fractures?

Most thumb fractures are caused by trauma, such as a fall or a sports injury, like when a ball catches on your thumb and pulls it backward. Some thumb fractures are the indirect result of twisting injuries or intense muscle contractions that might occur in sports, like wrestling.

 

Thumb fractures are most common in these sports:

  • Baseball
  • Softball
  • Basketball
  • Football
  • Hockey
  • Wrestling
  • Skiing
  • Volleyball

Symptoms

 

Signs and symptoms of a broken thumb include:

  • Intense pain and swelling at the base of the thumb
  • Restricted or no mobility in the thumb
  • Noticeable deformity of the thumb
  • Extreme tenderness over the thumb
  • Visible deformity
  • Numbness or coldness in the thumb

Thumb fracture symptoms may be  similar to those of a severe sprain, so it’s important to see a doctor for an accurate diagnosis and timely treatment.

 

When to see a doctor

 

See a doctor as soon as possible if you experience severe pain or swelling after an injury and suspect you may have a thumb fracture. A delay in treatment can cause the injury to worsen and may slow the recovery process.

During your appointment, your doctor will perform a physical examination of the thumb. In order to make a diagnosis, your doctor may order X-rays to confirm a fracture and rule out other causes of thumb pain, like a sprain.

Non-operative treatment

 

If the pieces of bone aren’t displaced, which means they didn’t move much, or if the fracture doesn’t involve a joint, your doctor may be able to treat your broken thumb without surgery.

Nonsurgical treatment of a thumb fracture involves wearing a specially designed cast that holds your thumb in place — called a thumb spica cast — for 4 to 6 weeks. You may need routine X-rays while wearing the cast to ensure the bones are aligned while they heal.

 

Surgical Treatment

You may need surgery to treat your thumb fracture if:

  • The bones are displaced
  • The fracture involves a joint
  • You have a Rolando or Bennet fracture

After your surgeon realigns the bone fragments in your thumb, they may use pins, plates, or screws to hold the bones in place.

Your doctor may use internal fixation, which involves placing tiny screws or plates inside your thumb; or external fixation, in which pins in your bone attach to a device outside your body

Recovery

 

Recovery from a broken thumb varies depending on the severity of your injury and whether or not you need surgical treatment.

For non-operative treatment, you should expect to wear a spica cast for 4 to 6 weeks.

If you’ve had surgery, you’ll need to wear a cast or splint for about 6 weeks afterward. By the time your cast is ready to come off, your doctor will have removed any stabilizing pins. However, if you’ve had a plate or screws placed, they will remain.

With proper treatment, most thumb fractures have good outcomes. However, it can take three months or longer to regain full use of your hand. You can return to your sport when you have full range of motion, strength with no pain, and with clearance from your doctor.

Sources

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