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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.