Bowlers Thumb: What Is It?, How do People Get It, And How To Treat It

What is bowler’s thumb?

Bowling is a popular sport in America. This activity is enjoyable for people of all ages, from having fun with friends to bowling in a professional tournament! However, it is critical to understand how to avoid certain injuries in order to have the most fun! And amongst those plethoras of injuries is the bowler’s thumb that can strike anyone and hinder your progress as the next Bowling Prodigy

Bowler’s thumb is a rare, traumatic neuropathic condition affecting the thumb’s ulnar digital nerve. As the thumb suffers from chronic frictional irritation, the condition becomes symptomatic. It is caused when a bowling enthusiast repeatedly compresses the ulnar digital nerve with the thumbhole of a bowling ball.

Bowler’s thumb was first described by Siegel in 1965 and gained popularity due to its association with bowling. The condition is so named because it causes tenpin bowlers who keep their thumbs in the ball for a longer period of time to spin after the ball is released. This traumatic injury to the digital nerve is usually caused by a single episode of bowling.

There are several different bowling styles that necessitate a much stronger delivery. These unusual maneuvers or deliveries frequently result in incorrect biomechanical hand muscle and wrist joint movements. Furthermore, the upper limb is subjected to significant stress and strain, which interferes with normal nerve elongation during movement and impairs the gliding system.

Notably, an acute condition with similar symptoms can occur after a single bout of bowling. This condition is associated with neurapraxia or axonotmesis and usually resolves on its own after a few months. Bowling thumb, on the other hand, is caused by scarring and fibrosis that does not heal on its own.

Bowler’s thumb is common in pin bowlers because this type of bowling requires inserting the thumb into a hole in the bowl. The constant repetition of such activity leads to the formation of fibrosis around the nerve. Chronic proliferative synovitis at the flexor pollicis longus tendon may also develop in some bowlers.

Is bowler’s thumb treatable?

Bowler’s thumb is characterized by localized pain and tenderness at the first webspace, as well as numbness and paresthesias extending distally from the first web space along the medial thumb surface. A small mass in the surrounding areas may be discovered during a clinical examination. The mass is mobile and palpable, and it is frequently tender with hyperesthesia.

Jewelers, cherry pitters, basketball players, and massage therapists have all reported similar symptoms. As a result, the condition is also known as “bowler’s neuroma,” “cherry pitter’s thumb,” “digital neuropathy of the thumb,” “digital neuroma of the thumb,” and “jewelers thumb.”

Prior to a diagnosis of bowler’s thumb, positive Tinel’s sign, callus formation, or skin atrophy may be observed in addition to the common symptoms.

Bowler’s thumb patients are primarily advised to follow a conservative treatment plan. According to research, patients’ bowler’s thumb symptoms may improve if they stop bowling.

Neoprene sleeves may also help to relieve nerve compression in existing bowlers suffering from bowler’s thumb. Splinting may also be used to decrease inflammation and protect the thumb from repetitive trauma.

Other conservative measures for bowlers include adjusting the weight of the bowling ball, the distance, size, and slope of the thumb hole.

Individuals who do not respond to conservative therapy are candidates for surgical intervention. For patients with severe bowler’s thumb, surgical options include neurolysis, neuroma resection with or without nerve graft, transposition of the ulnar digital nerve, and transposition deep to the adductor pollicis.

There is a risk of neuroma recurrence after neurolysis, particularly among avid bowlers who continue to engage in activities that cause direct trauma to the ulnar digital nerve. In patients who have had neurolysis, the use of a protective thumb guard is advised.

Can I still bowl with the bowler’s thumb?

It is strongly advised not to continue bowling if a person is diagnosed with bowler’s thumb. Bowler’s thumb occurs when the nerves in the thumb are compressed and possibly damaged. Damage frequently occurs as a result of an incorrectly sized thumb hole in the bowling ball. Compression or friction causes extensive damage to the nerves that provide sensation to the thumb. Thumb numbness is one of the most common symptoms of the condition.

Again, resting the injured thumb is the best form of treatment for ‘’bowlers thumb,” a nerve-related injury. This is done to alleviate pressure on the thumb. Apart from this make sure to drink plenty of water and stay hydrated plentiful because it would help blood flow to the injured areas and speed up healing.

If a bowler still wants to continue bowling then they can opt for bowling balls that do not require thumb holes to deliver or go for shots with lessened spin intensity put into them. There are also bowling balls with bigger holes to grip easing the tension on the tendons from the bowling balls making it easier for the player to go through with their game and have some fun.

The bowler is strongly warned though as continued injuries and compressions towards their conditions can easily force the bowler onto seeking surgery as their only source of healing as the nerves get so damaged that they can not relieve the pressure naturally anymore.

How do I prevent bowler’s thumb?

Bowler’s thumb has a better prognosis if it is diagnosed early and treated conservatively. Numbness, pain, or other neurological symptoms on bowlers’ thumbs can be an early sign of the condition and should not be ignored. Baseball players, cherry pitters, jewelers, and massage therapists should be wary of these symptoms because they are most likely to develop Bowler’s thumb.

Aside from a thorough examination of a patient’s occupational and medical history, several diagnostic techniques are available to detect bowler’s thumb.

Clinicians typically request neurectomy, neurolysis, and ulnar digital nerve transposition to determine the underlying cause of the condition. They may even perform an MRI to determine the source of the thumb mass. All of these diagnostic tests are critical for determining an early diagnosis and subsequent therapeutic measures to prevent complications associated with bowler’s thumb.

To avoid the development of bowler’s thumb, the following steps can be taken:

  • All sports requiring the use of the affected hand should be put on hold for the time being.
  • Wearing neoprene sleeves while blowing or engaging in other activities that are thought to cause Bowler’s thumb.
  • Changing the thumb-hole position or gripping style for professionals who want to continue their careers, so that the ulnar digital nerve receives the least amount of pressure and friction between ball and thumb.
  • Using a light-weight bowling ball and other tools that have been linked to an increased risk of Bowler’s Thumb

In summary, anyone can get easily injured while playing any game be it a novice just starting out with it or a professional having a track record of countless strikes attained over years of playing. Preventative measures and awareness about these injuries can go a long way in keeping everyone safe against these, saving the time and hassle from going through the pain and trouble dealing with the dreaded bowler’s thumb.

I  strongly recommend using bowling balls with holes big enough for your fingers to easily fit and let go off as well as not exerting too much pressure on your body for tricky shots for the wear and tear to be negligible over your tendons. Besides that, there are also thumb sleeves available for you to wear named “Bowling Thumb Socks” which can add cushion to your thumbs and save them further.

Recent Posts