Sports Focus Physiotherapy talks thumbs


Sports Focus Physiotherapist Luke Magee provides some advice on thumb injuries.

This advice is general in nature and the advice does not take in to account your specific injury. A personal treatment plan and  diagnosis should be obtained from a health professional.

Those of you who have had a thumb injury in the past would know how important a stable thumb is in everyday life, let alone in sport. A stable thumb is needed for grasping or pinching, and in the case of volleyball, to provide larger surface area to impart force and direction onto the ball as well providing a more expansive blocking area.

Is it serious? What could it be?

Injuries to this area are quite common, ranging in severity from fairly innocuous to something that requires medical attention. The thumb can sustain fractures, dislocations and ligament injuries or all of the above.


Dislocations are usually fairly obvious and occur from blunt force trauma to the top of the thumb. If your thumb is dislocated, there’s a chance there may have been a fracture or significant ligament damage to the joint of the thumb. It is unwise to put your thumb back in place due to possible fractures. A trip to the Emergency Department for an assessment and X-ray is your first port of call.


Fractures can be as obvious as dislocations but also might go undiagnosed. So it is important to look for signs of fractures which include such things as quick swelling and bruising as well as pain at the fracture site when applying compressive pressure down through the tip of the thumb towards the hand. With all fractures, the same protocol goes as is does for dislocations… off to ED.

Ligament injuries

Ligament injuries to the thumb most often occur at the base of the thumb. The side of the thumb closest to the hand has a ligament that is called the ulnar collateral ligament. This ligament stops your thumb being bent back onto your wrist.

If you are bruised and swollen in this area and have pain when pinching a car key, you will need medical attention as soon as possible because this ligament will not mend on its own and often requires surgical management. The side of the thumb away from the hand has a ligament called the radial collateral ligament. This ligament would be the most likely to injure in volleyball seeing as though the mechanism is forcing the thumb towards the back of the hand which is likely to occur from a mistimed block. Splinting and taping is often required for this type of injury so a hand specialist or physiotherapist is the best option for management.

What should I do?

At the end of the day, thumb injuries are hard to diagnose yourself, so to be on the safe side, a trip to your local physio (or Sports Focus Physiotherapy) is your best bet for peace of mind.

Sports Focus Physiotherapy locations
Castle Hill (02) 8850 0797
Liverpool (02) 9601 8411
Mt Pritchard (02) 8786 0666
Northbridge (02) 9958 8986
Willoughby (02) 9967 0013
Wynyard (02) 9262 4147

Don’t forget SNV members receive a discount at Sports Focus Physiotherapy, read about it here.