Skier’s Thumb

by Crystal Finlen

crystal-finlenGamekeeper’s thumb, also known as skier’s thumb, is an injury to the ulnar collateral ligament (UCL).  The ulnar collateral ligament is in the Metatarsophalangeal joint (MCP) where the thumb meets the hand. The UCL can be damaged, torn or in some cases avulsed in a skiing or automobile accident.

Skiing accidents are the most common cause of damage to this ligament. Sometimes a fall on an outstretched hand can create the necessary force to stress the area enough to tear. In some cases, an automobile crash when the driver has their thumb draped alone over the steering wheel can cause skier’s thumb also.

Some symptoms of this injury are:

  • Swelling of your thumb
  • Pain in the wrist
  • Tenderness
  • Blue or black discoloration of the skin over the thumb
  • Pain at the base of your thumb

skiers thumb

The treatment for this injury with an acute partial rupture is proper immobilization. The injured person will be placed in a forearm cast or even a splint with a thumb spica splint for up to four weeks. To reduce pain and swelling, doctors suggest icing the area and taking anti-inflammatory medications. With a total rupture, surgery may be required.  Immobilization and/or surgery can result in full or partial recovery.

To prevent skier’s thumb during a fall, discard your ski poles immediately.  Use poles with finger-groove grips without any restraining devices such as wrist straps.  You can prevent this type of injury during a motor vehicle accident by keeping your thumbs on the outside of the steering wheel (like a clock – at 10 and 2 PM).  These are the only ways to prevent this type of injury, especially for skiers.

The information provided is for general interest only and should not be misconstrued as a diagnosis, prognosis or treatment recommendation. This information does not in any way constitute the practice of medicine, or any other health care profession. Readers are directed to consult their health care provider regarding their specific health situation. Marque Medical is not liable for any action taken by a reader based upon this information.