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Dr. Budoff’s Injury Analysis – Drew Brees Will Again Be A Fantasy Force Upon Eventual Return

Drew Brees, New Orlean’s future Hall of Fame quarterback, tore a ligament on his throwing thumb. In layman’s terms this injury is known as ‘Skier’s Thumb,’ as it’s the No. 1 injury from skiing. This happens when you wear pole straps and the pole jams against your thumb. So, when skiing, it’s not a bad idea to not wear pole straps to decrease the incidence of this injury.

On to Brees: The torn ligament is the ulnar collateral ligament (UCL) of the thumb’s metacarpophalangeal (MP) joint.

It’s the ligament that provides stability to the thumb when gripping, which is required to throw a football. In order to facilitate ligament healing and get athletes back to sport ASAP, surgical repair is the best option. To see a video of me repairing a UCL tear, please go to

Brees underwent his surgery this week. By all reports it went well, and now he’s facing a six-week timeline to return to play. I think that’s very reasonable. And, with newer techniques that sew an ‘internal brace’ over the ligament to provide greater strength earlier, it might even be a week or two quicker.

So how do these surgical UCL repairs do in NFL players? The quick answer is that this operation generally yields excellent results in elite athletes. A 2019 study1 on thumb UCL repairs in NFL players reported that 22/23 (96%) returned to play at 100%. The “1 year career survival rate” was 87%, meaning that the vast majority of NFL players got back and stayed back. They did not play any fewer games per season, nor was their career shortened.  

So, Brees should be fine after his five- or six-week absence. Except for that Taysom Hill touchdown vulturing.

Image Credit: Ric Tapia/Icon Sportswire. Pictured: Drew Brees.


  1. Sochacki KR, Jack RA 2nd, Nauert R, Liberman SR, McCulloch PC, Lintner DM, Harris JD. Performance and Return to Sport After Thumb Ulnar Collateral Ligament Surgery in National Football League Players. Hand. 2019 Jul; 14:487-493. 

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