Hand Carpometacarpal Joint Instability in Elite Boxers: Injury Characteristics, Surgical Technique, and Outcomes

Published:October 25, 2022DOI:


      We describe a single-surgeon’s experience of managing hand carpometacarpal joint (CMCJ) instability in elite boxers, focusing on injury characteristics, surgical technique, and outcomes.


      This retrospective cohort included consecutive elite boxers undergoing surgery for hand CMCJ instability from 2009 to 2021. CMC joint instability is usually clear on clinical examination using a ‘seesaw’ test. All cases had a plain radiograph and in equivocal cases for instability advanced imaging such as MRI or ultrasound scan. CMCJs were accessed via longitudinal incisions between index/middle rays, and additionally ring/little. Often marked deficiency in the CMCJ ligamentous capsule was seen. The articular surfaces were decorticated to cancellous bone and autogenous bone graft impacted. The CMCJs were fixed in extension using various methods, latterly memory staples. Outcomes included radiographic fusion, return to boxing, and complications.


      Forty hands had surgery in 38 boxers. In total, 101 CMCJs were fused, with an average of 2.5 joints per patient. Patients were mainly young (mean age 24.1 years), male (37/38) with the trailing hand more commonly affected (trailing hand 87.5%, leading hand 12.5%). The most frequently fused CMCJ was the index (97.5%, n = 39), then middle (95%, n = 38), ring (45%, n = 18), and little (15%, n = 6). There were 82% (31/38) of patients who returned to the same level of boxing at a median of 8 months from surgery (range 3–27 months). Three patients had revision surgery for non-union, a median of 10.3 months after initial surgery (range 9.4–133.1 months): 2 for index/middle and one for the little CMCJ. All 3 revisions fused and the patients returned to boxing at the same level, although the little CMCJ required a second bone graft and fixation.


      Patients can achieve full recovery after treatment of CMCJ instability, and most can return to boxing at the same level with little risk of complications.

      Type of study/level of evidence

      Therapeutic IV.

      Key words

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