Everything You Need to Know About Ulnar Deviation (Drift)

Ulnar deviation (drift) is a common problem among athletes. Most of them have no idea how it affects their performance. A few of them are aware that they have symptoms related to it, but not all of them know what causes those symptoms or when they will develop complications due to ulnar deviation. There are many reasons why someone might experience ulnar deviation:

1. Overuse injuries such as overtraining, overuse stress fractures, tendonitis etc.


2. Muscle weakness due to age, injury, genetics, etc.


3. Weakness of other muscles in the forearm due to aging, injury or genetics.

4. Poor posture and/or bad posture correction techniques.

5. Other conditions like diabetes, high blood pressure etc.


6. Injuries caused by falling down stairs, slipping on ice, etc.


7. Some cases of ulnar deviation may be due to congenital defects in the bones of the hand or wrist.

8. Some cases of ulnar deviation may be due to birth defects in the way that the tendons or muscles are attached to the bones of the hand or wrist.

9. Poor conditioning of the forearm muscles due to lack of exercise, age, injury etc.


10. Hitting a hard baseball, golf ball, tennis ball etc… too many times

11. Muscle fatigue due to playing an instrument for extended periods of time.

12. Other reasons may be due to prolonged periods of vibration (such as driving a truck).

The immediate signs and symptoms that a professional athlete or weekend warrior will experience are pain, weakness and a loss of full range of motion in the hand and wrist. In most cases the pain and swelling occur in the area closest to where the ulnar nerve is entrapped which is at the elbow (funny bone).

Sources & references used in this article:

Extensor digiti minimi tendon transfer to prevent recurrent ulnar drift. by RM Pearl, VR Hentz – Plastic and reconstructive surgery, 1993 – europepmc.org

A prospective study comparing outcomes after reconstruction in rheumatoid arthritis patients with severe ulnar drift deformities by KC Chung, FD Burke, EFS Wilgis… – Plastic and …, 2009 – ncbi.nlm.nih.gov

Surgical correction of ulnar drift in the rheumatoid hand by FV Nicolle – Hand, 1979 – journals.sagepub.com

Relationship between radial inclination angle and ulnar deviation of the fingers by MR DiBenedetto, LM Lubbers, CR Coleman – The Journal of hand surgery, 1991 – Elsevier

Ulnar drift in rheumatoid arthritis: a review of biomechanical etiology by S Morco, A Bowden – Journal of Biomechanics, 2015 – Elsevier