CNY Orthopedic Sports Medicine, PC: Injury: Skier's Thumb

Injuries and Conditions: Hand : Skier's Thumb

Skier's thumb commonly refers to a torn or sprained ulnar collateral ligament in the thumb. The ligament runs along the inside of the base of the thumb and assists in grasping, pinching and stabilizing.
  • Injuries can range in severity from a partial to a complete tear.
  • The term skier's thumb is used because it refers to a situation where a person falls holding something in his or her hand. A person holding a ski pole cannot break a fall with the palm of his or her hand and often lands on the tip of the thumb, forcing the thumb beyond its limits of motion.
  • Symptoms may or may not occur immediately.
  • A doctor's diagnosis may include X-rays of both the injured and uninjured thumbs for comparative purposes.
  • Common treatment for a partial tear includes the immobilization of the thumb with a splint or cast.
  • A complete tear may require surgery to repair the ligament and replace or remove bone that may have fragmented when the ligament ruptured.
  • Surgery is followed by 6-8 weeks in a cast or splint.

  • Signs and Symptoms
  • Inability to grasp items between the thumb and forefinger.
  • Bruising, tenderness, and swelling.
  • Pain may present itself immediately following the injury.
  • Increased looseness (laxity) or side-to-side motion at the base of the thumb.
  • Contact the Doctor if ...
  • The patient has the signs and symptoms of skier's thumb.
  • After treatment, the patient experiences increasing pain or weakness in the thumb.
  • The patient experiences unexplained symptoms, other types of pain, or unexpected side effects from medication.

  • Common Causes of Injury
  • Skier's thumb may result from falling while holding something in the hand.
  • This injury is most commonly associated with falling while holding a ski pole.

  • Expectations of Recovery
  • Patients can expect a full recovery following treatment.
  • Recovery from a partial tear is 4-6 weeks. Consisting of initial complete immobilization, followed by a gradual increase in activity.
  • With a complete tear, the patient can anticipate six to eight weeks in a cast prior to beginning strengthening and rehabilitation exercises.


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