What is a UCL Injury?

22 August 2017

The ulnar collateral ligament (UCL) isn't a part of the body we often think about, but it plays an integral part in our daily lives. This ligament joins our thumb to our hand, so is responsible for gripping and executing precise and reliable hand movement. If you're experiencing bruising, pain or swelling in your thumb after a fall, it could well be that you are experiencing a UCL injury. Read on to find out more about this injury, and how we can help here at Wrist Supports.

What is a UCL Injury?

Injuries to the thumb's ulnar collateral ligament (UCL) can be pretty painful and disruptive. Colloquially known as Skier's Thumb or Gamekeeper's Thumb, this injury often occurs in those who like to frequent ski slopes or golfing greens. They occur when the thumb is pushed forward from a fall on an outstretched hand, and often need surgical intervention if the ligament tear is severe. Injury to the UCL causes pain, swelling and increased instability in the thumb.

What Causes a UCL Injury?

Any injury where the thumb is separated from the rest of the hand can be classed as a UCL injury. The UCL of the metacarpophalangeal (MCP) joint connects your thumb to your hand, and when it is torn or sprained, it can lead to chronic instability of the thumb, and causes several problems with basic hand function. Falling on an outstretched hand is a common cause of this injury, and if you are gripping onto anything as you fall, this can make the injury much worse.

A wrist brace with a thumb spica is the best way to keep the thumb immobilised during treatment
A wrist brace with a thumb spica is the best way to keep the thumb immobilised during treatment

What are the Symptoms of a UCL Injury?

Depending on the severity of the sprain or tear to the ligament, an injury to the UCL may not hurt right away. Some common signs to look out for if your think you are experiencing a UCL injury are:

  • Bruising around the thumb
  • Tenderness at the base of the thumb
  • Inflammation or swelling
  • Inability to grasp items using your thumb
  • Wrist or thumb pain that worsens with movement

How Can I Treat a UCL Injury?

Depending on the severity of the UCL injury, treatment can be carried out in one of two ways:

  • Immobilisation (for sprains and partial tears)
  • Surgery (for complete ligament tears)

For complete tears or significant displacement of the UCL, corrective surgery is often the best course of action to take in order to repair the ligament. For less serious injuries, usually an immobilising splint will suffice as the UCL heals, followed by a course of physical therapy to restore strength back in the thumb.

How Wrist Supports Can Help You

Going about daily life with a thumb injury can be inconvenient, as our thumbs play such an integral part of our day-to-day lives. Wrist braces with a thumb spica are the perfect way to keep your thumb supported and immobilised during the recovery period, and here at Wrist Supports, we have plenty of braces, supports and splints to help you heal in due course. Click the button below to browse our comprehensive range today!

Have you ever experienced a UCL injury? We'd love to hear from you - reach out to us in the comments below, or talk to us on Facebook or Twitter.

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