What is Gamekeeper's Thumb?

1 August 2017  |  Eugene

We use our thumbs for nearly everything we do. Every object we grip, anything we manipulate with our hands, and even some of our favourite hand gestures rely on our thumbs for precise and reliable movement. The strongest and most important of our digits, when our thumb is in trouble, we can't help but take notice. That's why if you're experiencing pain, swelling or general dysfunction of your thumb, it's crucial to figure out what the problem is as soon as possible, so you can remedy the situation and get it back in shipshape.

What is Gamekeeper's Thumb?

If your thumb is swollen, bruised and painful, you may be suffering from Gamekeeper's Thumb, also known as Skier's Thumb. This condition is an injury to the ulnar collateral ligament of the metacarpophalangeal joint, a strong ligament that is crucial in supporting your thumb. This ligament is activated during any pinching or gripping motion of your hand, and so is called upon countless times every day. Damage to this ligament may lead to chronic instability of the thumb, causing problems with function and drastically hurting your ability to grip objects tightly and securely.

Thumb up gamekeepers thumb injury

What Causes Gamekeeper's Thumb?

Gamekeeper's Thumb found its name in Scotland, as it was a condition commonly associated with Scottish gamekeepers. Having to manipulate small animals between thumbs and index fingers would often lead to a weakened grip over time, and eventual development of the condition. In modern times, this injury is more acute and will often occur due to a sudden impact to the thumb, as can happen during skiing. Skiers will often have to push down hard on their pole, which can cause a sudden pull or twist of the thumb away from the hand, thus damaging the ulnar collateral ligament.

While the condition is named for gamekeepers and skiers, it is a fairly common injury in other activities as well. For example, falling onto an uneven surface can often cause the thumb to bear the brunt of the impact, pushing it backwards to the point of injury. Likewise, trying to loosen a tight screw with the fingers can cause it as well, resulting in a twisting motion that can easily damage the thumb.

How Can I Tell If I Have Gamekeeper's Thumb?

While we've already spoken about some of the key ligaments and actions involved with Gamekeeper's Thumb, we're not all medical professionals, so we'll lay it out in simple terms. Here are some key symptoms to look out for to help you identify your Gamekeeper's Thumb:

  • You experience pain when you pinch an object between your thumb and forefinger.
  • You have difficulty when trying to grasp or hold onto an object.
  • Your thumb may appear crooked, as it if were leaning away from the rest of your hand.

While these are some tell-tale signs of Gamekeeper's Thumb, the condition can sometimes be more subtle, and harder to tell before symptoms get worse. That's why if you're unsure, it's always best to consult your physician.

Thumb spica splint gamekeepers thumb stabiliser

How to Treat Gamekeeper's Thumb

Treatment of this condition depends on the severity, with some cases requiring surgery and others simply the use of a splint. As a rule of thumb (pun intended), if there is displacement or significant instability, surgery will often be required. For anything less, a splint will often suffice.

As with most injuries, a great way to reduce pain and inflammation after occurrence is to apply ice to the area. This will slow the increase of swelling in the area, increasing comfort for you, and making it easier to diagnose the condition for your physician. Anti-inflammatory medications are also a good idea, and are usually available in most local shops.

Which Kind of Splint Do I Need?

At WristSupports.co.uk, we have supports, splints and braces for every hand-and-wrist-related condition, and we appreciate sorting through them can be a tough task for the uninitiated. For treatment of Gamekeeper's Thumb, a Thumb Spica splint or Thumb Stabiliser will be the most effective.

To see all the splints we have on offer to combat your condition, take a look at our full range of Wrist Supports for Gamekeeper's Thumb.


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