The Thumb: Respecting the Most Valuable Digit in Major League Sports and Life

Updated: November 10, 2013
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In 2013, there have been a number of injuries in professional sports.  Oddly enough, the injury to the thumb has transcended across nearly all major leagues.  

For instance, recent World Series champion Dustin Pedroia managed to play the entire season with a torn UCL in his thumb, which he earned in a play against the New York Yankees on Opening Day.  

“It’s part of the job,” the Red Sox second baseman told ESPN

In basketball, Detroit Pistons guard Rodney Stuckey missed the season opener after breaking his right thumb, which he accidentally slammed in a car door in early October.  

Shortly thereafter, Green Bay Packer Clay Matthews suffered a Bennett’s fracture to his fifth digit while taking down the Detroit Lions quarterback.  In addition to be somewhat rare, the fracture is said to be “a very painful injury” where the bone separates from the joint, reports the Journal Sentinel

And just recently, safety Steve Gregory broke his thumb in the New England Patriots’ bout against the Pittsburgh Steelers in Week 9, just as New York Rangers captain Ryan Callahan was returning from a seven game hiatus caused by a broken thumb.

Given the amount of aggressive activities these men participate in while using their thumbs (or the number of exotic car doors they slam them in), it is not unthinkable that professional athletes would injure their shortest digits.

But, it is likely that these men gave much consideration to the value of their thumbs before losing their usage. 

If you recall from grade school science class, few beings have an opposable thumb, which is an adaptation that helps humans (and those few lucky primates) maneuver the iPhone 5s, grasp a bottle of Heineken and conquer other essential tasks in the wild.  

Hence, the thumb is as critical to one’s ability to grip and control a baseball, football, basketball, or hockey stick, as it is to one’s ability to increase the accuracy of their motor skills when mastering on offense or defense.  And, despite being the shortest digit, the thumb is vital to making full use of the remaining four fingers.

The Rolling Stones Keith Richards recognized the importance of having full use of his hands when he insured them for $1.6 million with Lloyd’s of London, the leading insurer of body parts.  

Likewise, Reuters reported that Real Madrid’s goalkeeper, Iker Casillas, had a similar (albeit more expensive) appreciation when he insured his mittens for 7.5 million euros.

Certainly, if either Richards or Casillas were to ever lose their outermost opposable little limb, they would cash in quick and count their losses later.

While it is likely that neither Pedroia nor Matthews, Stuckey, Gregory or Callahan have insured any of their digits in particular, these players certainly should protect their thumbs moving forward.

…and perhaps even seek Lloyd’s for an appraisal.

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