What is Skier's Thumb?

1 Comment2 August 2017

Skier's thumb is a pretty painful and disruptive injury pertaining to the ulnar collateral ligament (UCL). It is often associated with skiers who fall on their outstretched hand while gripping the ski pole, causing the ligaments in the hand to tear. Tears of the UCL can often lead to instability of the metacarpophalangeal (MCP) joint that connects the thumb to the hand, and causes pain, swelling and reduced grip strength. Read on to find out more about skier's thumb and how to treat it.

What is Skier's Thumb?

Skier's thumb, sometimes known as gamekeeper's thumb, is an injury to the ulnar collateral ligament (UCL) of the metacarpophalangeal (MCP) joint that connect your thumb to your hand. The UCL is a strong ligament that supports the thumb when pinching and gripping, and if it is damaged, can lead to a chronic instability of thumb and cause problems with basic function.

Falling on an outstretched hand while gripping a ski pole is a common cause of skier's thumb

What Causes Skier's Thumb?

This injury often occurs when you fall onto an outstretched hand, and is more likely if the thumb is gripping something at the same time. Falling when skiing while holding onto the ski pole is a common cause of the injury, thus the colloquial name of skier's thumb. It can also be caused during a car accident as the driver grips the steering wheel on impact, as most drivers are taught to grip the wheel in a similar fashion to a ski pole.

What Are the Symptoms of Skier's Thumb?

It is easy to recognise whether you have skier's thumb, as pain usually sets in right away. However, sometimes symptoms can take a few hours to arise, and these can include:

  • Pain at the base of the thumb and index finger
  • Weakness of grip or inability to grip completely
  • Swelling of your thumb
  • Tenderness to the touch
  • Bruising over the skin over the thumb
  • Thumb pain that worsens with movement
  • Wrist pain (usually pain from the thumb)

If you suspect that you may have skier's thumb, apply ice to the area and seek out medical attention immediately.

A cast is often required for the treatment of skier's thumb

How to Treat Skier's Thumb

Skier's thumb is a pretty serious injury, so going to the hospital is often a necessary precaution. Once there, a doctor will examine you to determine the severity of the injury, give you medication for the pain and proceed with treatment.

If the UCL is only partially torn, then a splint or a cast is usually worn for six weeks, and subsequent physical therapy will need to be carried out to bring strength back to the thumb. If the UCL is completely torn, an operation will often be required to repair the ligament, followed by a similar period of splinting and a gentle exercise program.

Occasionally, if the injury is severe, the ligament does not heal properly and causes instability to the thumb, and therefore further reconstructive surgery will need to be carried out.

Wrist Supports for Skier's Thumb

A wrist brace is a great way to immobilise the thumb and wrist in order to protect from further injury while healing. Here at WristSupports.co.uk, we offer a wide range of braces and supports that are designed to stabilise the wrist and thumb during recovery, allowing your to rehabilitate fully and get back to normal as soon as possible. Have a look at our Wrist Supports for Skier's Thumb today!


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Frank Pearsall
03 December 2020  |  15:26

Great Post, and spot on with everything you say from someone who has suffered skier's thumb it really did hurt.

All the best,

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