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Bowling - Thumb Swelling and Pain

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Many of us who love to bowl have experienced the problem of thumb swelling.   It can be very painful to try to get that swollen thumb in and out of the ball cleanly for those first few frames, especially if you haven’t had a lot of time to warm up.

At first, I was almost to a point thinking that I was going through swelling and a sore thumb issue that no one else had problems with, but I soon found out that it is sometimes common when you bowl a lot - and I do.  And yes - I sometimes try to take time off from bowling, but, over the past year, I have noticed that my thumb fit doesn’t feel the same when I take time off from bowling. 

Ball with Shoe cover slip

Now – here are the things that I have found out that have helped me deal with pain and swelling of my thumb, and still be able to bowl without too many problems.

·          For pain, I personally have found that Ibuprofen or Motrin seems to be the easiest on my body, plus it is an anti-inflammatory medication, which also aids in the swolen thumb issue.  I usually take anywhere from 200 to 400 mg about 30 minutes before I start bowling.

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Thumb cover

·          To compress my thumb (so that it will fit into my bowling ball BEFORE I start bowling), I always take at least 10 minutes before I roll the first ball - and wrap my thumb in a scarf, handkerchief, or even the slip cover for my bowling shoes, and then very slowly insert the thumb into my ball.  

Ball with thumb inserted with thumb cover slip

·          At first, it will not go pass the first joint, but as long as I slowly keep pushing into the thumb hole with a little pressure - eventually I get my thumb in after 5 or 6 minutes, with the slip around it.   And about 10 minutes later, I can get my thumb into the bowling ball hole completely with the covering still around my thumb. 

Thumb inserted into bowling ball

·          What I have done is basically compress that area of my thumb so that it will now fit in my ball.   At this point, I REMOVE the covering, and it is very easy to get my thumb into any of my bowling balls without any problems.   Now I can start bowling, and my thumb fit is great too.

Ok – that’s about it.  If you have other advice or tips that work for you that can help others, please submit your advice to us so that we can share it on the website. 


User Reviews - Additional information on Thumb Swelling –

I suffered with a similar problem for many years.  I've got a flat thumb - compressing the fluid out of it works, but I was left with a blister prone area on the outside of the thumb.  I use to force my thumb in the round hole and just hope the shrinking would occur.  I finally found a pro shop that had the solution - drill the thumb hole as an oval - problem solved!   Thumb fits fine now from the get go. I’ve had all my balls drilled the same way and the comfort is just wonderful.  


--J. Barry

I once experienced the same problem with thumb swelling after 6 or more games bowled.  It was recommended by a pro bowler to use the compression solution, but with a napkin wrapped around the thumb and inserted into the bowl, holding for about 2 or 3 minutes.  Once the thumb and napkin are removed, the hold will appear extremely comfortable, almost too loose.  IT REALLY WORKS...  The last solution is as one of your readers find a pro shop that drills an oval hole.  With the oval drill, I have not experienced this problem at all.  I have bowled 12 or more games in one day and experienced no swelling


---J. Butler


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