Skier’s Thumb is an injury to the ulnar collateral ligament of the metacarpal phalangeal joint of the thumb. This injury used to be known as Gamekeeper’s Thumb. Skier’s Thumb most commonly occurs to skiers who fall while holding a ski pole. The position of the thumb while holding a ski makes it’s vulnerable to being hyper-extended if the thumb hits the ground. This condition is not unique to skiers and can potentially happen to anyone who experiences direct impact to the thumb while it is extended.
The ulnar collateral ligament provides stability to the thumb joint when gripping, lifting, twisting, or pinching. Symptoms of a traumatic injury to the ulnar collateral ligament can include swelling, pain, weakness and bruising at the base of the thumb.
Diagnosis of Skier’s Thumb
During a diagnosis, an orthopedic hand specialist will perform a physical exam and may order an X-ray or Ultrasound to visually evaluate the severity of the ligament tear and determine if the injury was the result of a bone fracture. During a physical exam, hand and nerve functionality will be evaluated. A doctor will also examine the patients arm for others injuries that may have occurred as a result of trauma.
Non-Surgical Treatment for Skier’s Thumb
If the ulnar collateral ligament has been partially torn it could heal without surgery. Treatment for a partially torn ulnar collateral ligament includes the use of a cast or a splint to keep the injured area immobilized so that it can heal correctly. Exercises aimed at improving the injured thumbs range of motion are commonly recommended after the area has healed.
Surgery for Skier’s Thumb may be required is the damaged to the ulnar collateral ligament or the surrounding area is severe. A fully torn ligament or a bone fracture are examples of conditions that would require surgery to correct.