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When I throw a ball my fingers tingle, what causes this?

Medically reviewed by Carmen Pope, BPharm. Last updated on Aug 24, 2023.

When I throw a baseball my thumb, pointer finger, middle and ring finger tingle what is the cause of this and what does it mean?

Official answer


Your symptoms indicate that you may have a mild elbow injury associated with throwing; however, you are best to see a doctor who specializes in sports medicine for an exact diagnosis.

Two types of elbow injuries may cause tingling in the fingers, particularly after throwing a ball: Cubital tunnel syndrome or an Ulnar Collateral Ligament (UCL) injury.

Cubital tunnel syndrome

Cubital tunnel syndrome is a condition caused by pressure or stretching of the ulnar nerve (also known as the “funny bone” nerve), which can result in numbness or tingling of the ring and small fingers, forearm pain, or weakness in the hand.

Pressure may be caused by sleeping on the arm at night with the elbow flexed or stretching may occur with activities such as pitching. Sometimes the nerve may slip partway out of its groove. This is called a subluxation.

Wrapping a towel around the elbow at night or wearing a splint will keep the elbow from bending while you are asleep. Sometimes surgery is necessary.

Ulnar Collateral Ligament (UCL) injury

The UCL is a ligament on the inside part of the elbow that helps connect the humerus (upper arm bone) to the ulna (one of the forearm bones). The UCL stabilizes the elbow while throwing.

UCL injuries may occur with a single event or gradually over time. Injuries are graded on a scale of 1 to 3, with Grade 1 being a stretching, but not tearing, of the ligament, and Grade 3 being a complete or full-thickness tear.

Usually, a painful pop is heard and felt with an acute UCL injury, and this immediately prevents a person from throwing. Other symptoms include swelling and a few seconds of numbness or tingling into the small and ring fingers.

Chronic injuries are more common, especially in people who throw regularly, such as baseball pitchers. Pain is a common symptom in people who have sprained their UCL, and the pain is most pronounced at the cocking and early acceleration phases of throwing. The elbow may also feel loose and tingling can occur in the fingers.

Over time, overuse and bad pitching techniques can stretch the ligament and lead to eventual failure. Continuing to play may cause further damage to the elbow. Surgery may be necessary.