While some NFL players can perform with broken hands or dislocated fingers, Packers linebacker Clay Matthews' thumb injury is a little bit different, and that's why we probably won't see him on the field for the next three to four weeks.
As the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel points out, the type of break suffered by Matthews is called a Bennett's fracture and it “requires immediate immobilization and the prospects for long-term damage are high if the bones don't heal exactly right.”
If Matthews were to play before he was fully healed and he hurt his hand again, it could cause him to lose grip strength on a permanent basis.
"The reason to get it to heal right is for 10, 15 years down the road so the person has a functional thumb that isn't in a painful arthritic state," Barry Callahan, an orthopedic hand specialist, told the paper. "To be able to pinch buttons and put your pants on, snaps, you name it.
"You don't really miss your thumb until it's in a cast or something like that. You find out pretty quick when you're asking your wife to button your shirt right."
But Matthews couldn't just use a cast to protect his thumb, because the chances of some kind of force damaging it still would be very high.
"It's a very painful injury," Callahan said. "It's not really that you couldn't play with it, but it's one of the things where you aren't going to play very well. You're not going to want to shove your hand in there. You're not going to be aggressive with it."