On September 11, 2022, in the season home opener, Dallas Cowboy’s star quarterback Dak Prescott suffered an injury to his right thumb. The injury occurred to his throwing hand in the fourth quarter of the game against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and Tom Brady.
ESPN immediately reported that he would need surgery, and would miss 6-8 weeks of playing. Mixed messages were sent, Prescott reporting the break was much cleaner than he thought. However, coach McCarthy reported having said it was a significant injury to the thumb.
Hand surgeon, Dr. Mark Khorsandi breaks down what we do and do not know about Dak’s Injury to his right thumb, and when he will return to play.
First what we know: It is an injury to his right hand, his throwing hand. The thumb is the most important finger, so any injury to the thumb will affect Dak’s ability to accurately throw the ball.
Second: We know there is a break or a fracture to a bone in the hand. The thumb as many videos indicate is the finger involved.
What we do not know: Is if he is definitely having surgery. Not all breaks or fractures require surgery, especially if it is a clean break as described. There are many ways to classify fractures or breaks. Fractures can be classified as displaced or non-displaced (meaning the bones are broken but in good anatomical alignment or not). However, maybe the team is thinking of putting hardware to fix the break will get him back to playing sooner. Most reports have been leaning toward he is scheduled to undergo surgery for his hand injury.
Respected owner and General Manager Jerry Jones, told reporters after the game that Dak injured the joint above the thumb. What we do not know is what this entirely means as it relates to the injury, leading to speculation. This could be a clue that he either suffered a fracture and dislocation of the thumb or that the fracture could have extended into the joint. From a hand surgeon’s point of view, both injuries can be complex to treat and may confirm the coach’s assessment of the injury.
We do not know if the surgery will be immediate, although many news outlets indicated it would happen. Reasons for immediate surgery could include exposed bone (open fractures like Joe Theisman), vascular compromise (blood not getting to the finger), a joint that cannot be reduced due to dislocation, or infection. However, if there is an obvious need for surgery, the physicians may figure there is no reason to delay.
We do not know when he will return back to playing. Some reports say 6 – 8 weeks. According to Dr. Khorsandi, a hand specialist in Houston, Tx, the fracture would barely be healed by then, and he would not have had enough time for rehabilitation or practice. At best, he will be back in 3 months or longer. Any time sooner, and he probably will not be fully recovered from the injury.
Hand surgery is complex and is best managed by experts in the field.
There are many issues to consider: indications for surgery; and if indicated how to stabilize the fracture; what technique will the hand surgeon use: a minimally invasive technique with percutaneous wires (our preferred method at Hand Surgery Specialists of Texas), or will they need to make an incision to fix it? Will they need a plate or screws, or use wires? The wires we use are usually removed at about 6 weeks once the fracture is healed.
While we know that America’s team will have an award-winning medical team for Dak, that same level of care may not be available to you. It is always best to consult fellowship-trained hand surgeons for sports-related injuries like Daks. At Hand Surgery Specialists of Texas, we also offer virtual consults and second opinions, to give patients more accessibility and reassurance that they are making the right decision in a timely manner.
We wish Dak a speedy recovery, and cannot wait to see him starting for the world-famous Dallas Cowboys again.