Joel Embiid’s radial collateral ligament tear and 2 hand surgeons’ opinions on his return

Philadelphia 76ers center Joel Embiid dislocated his 4th digit, the ring finger, on his left hand vs the Thunder on Jan 6th. The Sixers diagnosed him with a “radial collateral ligament tear of the 4th metacarpal” with surgery indicated.

In this brief article, I’ll explain the injury, the surgery, and share two hand surgeons’ opinions on when to expect him back. If you prefer a video format, I have you covered:

The injury


The radial collateral ligament of the 4th metacarpal sits on the inner (medial) aspect of the base of the ring finger and helps stabilize the joint.

When the base of the finger is pushed outwards towards the pinky (ulnar) side with enough force, the radial collateral ligament is torn – typically one end of the ligament is pulled off the bone, known as avulsion – resulting in dislocation and instability in the joint.

The surgery

The surgery will re-attach the torn end of the ligament back to the bone using a bone anchor.

Re-evaluation & Return Timeline


The Sixers announced that Embiid will be re-evaluated in one to two weeks with his status updated at that time. The medical staff will be assessing his finger and hand for pain/discomfort, stiffness, range of motion, and grip strength. Based on those indicators, Joel will either be cleared for higher intensity activity – like return to sport protocols – or continue with physio and be re-evaluated in another week or so.

Return to play (RTP)

I consulted with two hand surgeons on Embiid’s overall RTP timeline and both told me to expect a relatively quick one because the finger can be “buddy-taped” to the middle finger for added dynamic stability with the the main hurdle in recovery being post-surgical stiffness. One surgeon told me he’d expect Embiid back in a month, max, if not sooner.

Further adding to that positive outlook is that the injury is on Embiid’s non-dominant left hand which reduces the amount of stress put through it and research, albeit limited because it’s an uncommon injury, shows very good outcomes for surgery when performed soon after the initial insult. Overall, a nasty looking injury but relatively mild in the grand scheme of things.

That’s a wrap for this article. Thanks for reading. My goal is to provide you with in-depth, evidence based, narrative free analysis and you can always find me on IG and Twitter @3CBPerformance. Make sure to sub to the blog, YouTube channel, and follow along on all social media for the latest updates. 3CB out.

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