What Wikipedia Can’t Tell You About Skier’s Thumb

by Frank V. Persall

It Is Called Skier’s Thumb Because If The Run Away Strap On Your Ski Pole Is Over Instead Of Under Your Thumb (or The Old Molded Grip That Your Index Thru Little Finger Went Thru), Then When You Release The Pole During A Fall The Handle Of It Still Stays In Your Hand And 1st Web Space And When You Fall On Your Outstretched Hand The Pole Handle Acts As A Lever On Your Thumb Thus Tearing The MCL.

Whether you’re climbing, skiing, riding, or even running, accidents might happen. If you have ever fallen or had an accident, you might have had a skier’s thumb injury or in medical terms, 1st MCP UCL lesion.

Although it is not life-threatening, it can cause discomfort and pain. A person suffering from skier’s thumb pain usually have their thumb at an alarming and odd angle. The injury occurs when you damage your Ulnar Collateral Ligament (UCL) of the thumb. 

What Wikipedia Can’t Tell You About Skier’s Thumb
What Wikipedia Can’t Tell You About Skier’s Thumb

You can usually tell whether you have this injury or not if you feel pain at the base of your thumb after a fall. Skier’s thumb injury affects the ligaments in your thumb and therefore needs timely treatment. 

Skier’s thumb can affect your wrist movement, grip, joints and might require physiotherapy. Many people all around the world are prone to skier’s thumb. This is because physical injuries are very common. If you ever get this thumb injury, the best option is to visit a doctor or orthopedic surgeon. If the injury is very bad, you will need an x-ray and surgical intervention.

 What is Gamekeeper's Thumb?

“skier’s thumb” is a tear of the medial collateral ligament (MCL) at the base of the thumb proximal phalanx and the 1st metaphalange joint, the thumb joint closest to the hand and adjacent to the 1st webspace.

It is also known as the gamekeeper’s thumb affecting the metacarpophalangeal joint where the thumb and the hand connect. Most cases of gamekeeper's thumb occur due to accidents. Skiers tend to get this injury a lot due to the hand positioning on the ski pole, which is how the condition got its name.

Other than skiing accidents, you may also end up with a skier’s thumb due to intense activities that require the thumb in extreme positions. In some cases of skier’s thumb, a stener lesion might also occur. When this happens, surgical treatment is a necessity to put back into place.

Diagnostic Procedures

It is not at all difficult to identify skier’s thumb. One of the most common ways to tell whether you’re suffering from a gamekeeper's thumb injury is to check the position of your thumb. 

If your thumb is in an odd position and you feel discomfort, you might be suffering from an injury to the ligaments. Pain and swelling at the base, along with a dispositioned thumb, is how you can easily identify a skier’s thumb injury. 

There are also ways to tell whether you have a skier’s thumb injury. If you have had a recent fall or accident in general and injured your hand or index finger, check for some signs. The most common signs of this injury after a fall are bruises, redness, and even swelling. The symptoms can start from the thumb area and slowly spread to the whole hand if left untreated. 

Treatment & Rehabilitation

Skier’s thumb is a common injury, and the treatment is also very safe. In cases of partial rupture of the Ulnar Collateral Ligament (UCL) of the thumb, icing of the area, non-inflammatory drugs, and elevation of the hand are encouraged. All these will help to minimize the swelling and the pain. Finally, splints that help immobilize and stabilize the thumb is used to speed up the recovery process.

There are also some cases where a stener lesion can occur when suffering from a skier’s thumb. If this is the case, the ligaments are completely injured and need immediate medical assistance such as surgery. It is advisable to go see an orthopedic surgeon to repair the injured soft tissues and ligaments. Hand therapy or physiotherapy is also needed to help regain the range of motion. 

Frequently Asked Questions

What is the cause?

A: UCL injuries arise due to the injury and rupture of the Ulnar Collateral Ligament. This may occur due to accidents, falls, or extreme positioning of the thumb. This occurs when the metacarpophalangeal joint between the base and the hand is broken or injured.

How to tape thumb?

A: It is not difficult to tape, It is usually a one-man job. Start by taping the pit of the palm using a full-width strip of tape. Continue to tape over the palm and under the base of thumb. Make sure to tape the back of the hand and also over the other side of the palm. The tape should cross or meet at the starting point again.

Quick Note

The cost of a skier’s/gamekeeper's thumb surgery ranges anywhere from $4000-$5,800. 

Why is it called skier’s thumb?

A: The reason why the UCL injury of the thumb is called ‘Skier’s Thumb.’ Many skiers suffer from this condition due to the extreme pressure on the ski pole from their thumb while skiing. Hence.

How long does it take to heal?

A: Depending on how bad the injury is, the healing period depends. If the injury isn’t very severe, it may take a week or two. However, if you opted for surgery, the thumb may take more than two weeks to completely heal. 

Conclusion

The most important thing to know is that skier's thumb can occur to anyone.

You must go see a doctor if you think you have the skier’s gamekeeper's thumb injury. Depending on the injury and range of motion, the doctor will inform you what to do. If the injury is not severe, you may get pain medications, icing, and a lot of hand therapy.

There are times this injury can be very painful and bad. These are the times you may need surgery, which will take you weeks in order to recover. Look out for the common symptoms of the injury and treat yourself at the right time!

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About Frank V. Persall

Originally from the UK, Frank has a passion for skiing and anything snow related. He is currently on a never ending mission to visit the best ski resorts across the USA and the the World. Frank is happiest when he is on ski slopes with his wife and three children.

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