top of page

Bowler's Thumb: Causes, Symptoms, and Prevention for Pain-Free Bowling

A person showing hand thumb's pain caused by bowler's thumb

When it comes to the game of bowling, even the tiniest detail has the potential to knock you off your feet. Especially when we talk about pain. One such challenge is the dreaded bowler's thumb, causing discomforting symptoms which can not only hamper a bowler's performance but also lead to frustration and, in severe cases, even force bowlers to take a break from the game they love.

In this article, we will delve into the depths of Bowler's Thumb, exploring its causes, symptoms, and potential preventive measures.

What is Bowler's Thumb?

In medical terms, Bowler's Thumb is a perineural fibrosis involving the ulnar digital nerve of the thumb. This diagnosis occurs only among frequent bowlers and is not very common in other sports. That is why this diagnosis was called after tenpin bowlers, whose sports specifics dictate the thumb's insertion in the bowling ball to perform a shot.

The condition is caused by chronic repetitive impaction of the thumb's ulnar soft tissues against the thumbhole of a bowling ball.

Causes of Bowler's Thumb

It is important to understand that Bowler's Thumb is not something that happens at once, it happens over the course of thousands of bowling ball releases, which eventually wears and tears particular thumb area.

The primary cause of a Bowler's Thumb is the repetitive thumb motion when releasing the bowling ball. The intense gripping and rotation of the bowling ball damage the skin tissue and can strain the ulnar collateral ligament and damage the nerve over time.

An improper thumb hole size can also be the cause. When the thumbhole of a bowling ball is too tight, it can create friction or decompression of the ulnar nerve, contributing to the development of this condition.

What are the symptoms of the Bowler's Thumb?

  • Numbness of a thumb

  • Tickling

  • Pain

  • Tenderness

  • Swelling

  • Difficulty gripping objects

  • Weakness in the thumb

If these symptoms arise, it's important to give your hand a rest and consult a healthcare professional for an accurate diagnosis and appropriate treatment.

How to prevent Bowler's Thumb?

To prevent Bowler's Thumb and promote thumb health while bowling, follow these preventive measures:

  1. Proper Technique. Learn and use the correct technique for gripping and releasing the bowling ball. Seek guidance from experienced coaches to ensure proper hand positioning, gripping strength, and follow-through motions.

  2. Bowling Ball Fit. Using a bowling ball with an ill-fitting hole can strain the thumb ligaments. Make sure your ball fits your hand perfectly. Use thumb tape and always consult with your pro-shop staff.

  3. Warm-up and Stretching. Prior to bowling, warm up your muscles and perform gentle stretches, focusing on the thumb and wrist area. This prepares the tendons and ligaments for the physical demands of the game.

  4. Rest and Recovery. Allow your thumb sufficient rest and recovery time between bowling sessions. Avoid overexertion and listen to your body's signals.

  5. Thumb Support. If your thumb gets constantly damaged, consider using thumb supports like finger tape for bowlers. These provide extra protection for your skin and add additional support for your thumb ligaments.

Maintaining thumb health is crucial for avid bowlers. By understanding injury causes, symptoms, and preventive measures, you can protect your thumb joints and enjoy a healthier bowling experience. With the right techniques and care, you can continue rolling strikes with confidence.

bottom of page