Thumb tendon transfer recovery time?

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 kevin stephens 06 Oct 2021

I’ve broken a thumb extensor tendon, the one that allows a thumbs up sign. This doesn’t restrict climbing directly but I expect it to be a problem when for example fumbling with a bunch of wires on a thin crux, or handling gear in general. The solution advised is tendon transfer surgery; redirecting one of the two index finger extensor tendons to my thumb. 

Has anyone had this done and can comment on recovery time and usability afterwards from a climbing point of view? Thanks

 Jezzer 07 Oct 2021
In reply to kevin stephens:

Hi Kevin, I snapped my tendon about 5 years ago (in a changing room). I thought my climbing days might be over, but after a wait of a few months I had that same op and eventually got back to climbing weekly at pretty much the previous level.

Surgeon was ok that I resumed climbing before the op, as best I could. 

After the op I had my hand strapped in a lightweight plastic "back slab" for several weeks. 6 weeks slow rehabilitation before I could even drive my car. I don't remember how many more weeks before I climbed again, but it wasn't until after lots of small thumb and finger exercises, with regular appointments at a hand physiotherapist. Then the surgeon gave me the ok and no issues with the tendon - but of course strength and fitness took a while. 

Hope it goes well with you. If you are patient and follow routine from a specialist physio then my experience is that you will get back to what you love. 


 kevin stephens 07 Oct 2021
In reply to Jezzer:

Thanks Jeremy, that’s very helpful. Was the 6 weeks total from the operation or in addition to the time in the splint?

 Jezzer 08 Oct 2021
In reply to kevin stephens:

I don't remember all the timings but I think I was 6 weeks in the splint. The physio had me doing very small movements of thumb and finger to mobilise them. The splint was partly just to stop me accidentally grabbing/lifting anything.

Then a few more weeks able to drive myself to work and hospital appointments and doing exercises with progressive strength/weight  

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