The coronation of the Miami Heat as 2011 NBA World Champions, as many fans and sportswriters seem to have decided, might have been slowed down this week.’s Michael Wallace is reporting that shooting guard Mike Miller had surgery yesterday to repair a torn ligament and small fracture in his thumb. Miller was injured several days earlier when he got his hand caught in another player’s jersey.

The Heat are not specifically describing the nature of the injury. They have announced that Miller likely will be out until January. As I am not the physician for the Miami Heat, nor do I have specific knowledge of the details of the injury or surgery, I cannot speculate to the exact medical details. That said, it seems likely that Miller suffered an injury to the ulnar collateral ligament of his thumb.

The ulnar collateral ligament of the thumb is the ligament at the base of the thumb closest to the index finger. It helps to stabilize the thumb and keep it from being pulled too far away from the rest of the hand. Often these injuries can be treated without surgery, especially if it’s a sprain of the ligament. Unfortunately certain UCL injuries, especially where the ligament slips out underneath one of the tendons of the thumb or pulls off a small piece of bone, it often needs surgery to repair it.

While the surgery to repair a torn ulnar collateral ligament is performed as an outpatient, it can take several months to get back to certain sports. If an athlete plays a sport such as football, where he can play in a padded cast, then he might get back to sports within several weeks. Unfortunately, throwing sports and other sports that require use of the hands make this next to impossible. Since Miller needs his hands to pass and shoot, it would seem reasonable that he would be out for 2 to 3 months.