Skier’s thumb is an injury to the soft tissue or ligament that attaches the bones of the thumb together. This condition is also called gamekeeper’s thumb. It is a chronic injury that develops due to repeated stretching if the ulnar collateral ligament in the thumb.
Scottish fowl hunters, gamekeepers, athletes playing volleyball are susceptible to this condition. People falling onto an outstretched hand while holding a ski pole usually on skiers.
Causes of skier’s thumb
- Falling on outstretched hand and jams into a packed snow at high speed.
- Falling on outstretched hand while holding a ski pole on the palm of the hand.
- Vehicular accidents with the thumb on the steering wheel
- The thumb is bent in abnormal position
- Swelling of the thumb
- Pain at the bottom of the thumb in the web space between the thumb and the index finger
- Wrist pain
- Incapable to grasp or weakness when grasping between the thumb and the index finger
- Tenderness along the index finger on the side of the thumb
- Blue or black discoloration of the skin on the affected thumb
- Severe pain when moving the thumb in all directions
- Rest the affected thumb as much as possible.
- Immobilize the thumb by wrapping the area using an ACE wrap or use a wrist brace. Put the thumb in the neutral position to keep it immobilized. It will prevent unnecessary movement, lessen the pain and for fast healing of the condition.
- Apply ice compress on the affected thumb for at least 35 minutes at a time, 4 times every day to lessen the pain and the inflammation. Wrap ice compress in a small cloth or a face towel before placing to the area to prevent further irritation and worsen the condition. Another alternative is using a bag of frozen vegetable such as peas or corn is also good for the condition.
- Wrap the affected thumb using an elastic wrap to maintain pressure on the sprain.
- Elevate the affected area above the level of the heart to lessen the swelling and internal bleeding. When lying raise the hand in couple of pillows to keep it elevated.
- Take the prescribed anti-inflammatory medications to lessen the inflammation and the pain.
- Seek the help of the physical therapist for some rehabilitation exercises for strength, flexibility, restore range of movement and lessen the pain
- Skiers should discard their ski pole during falls. Falling with outstretched hand without the ski pole will minimize the chances of an injury.
- Use poles with finger-groove grips and not putting restraining devices such as closed grip or a wrist strap.
- When driving, keep the thumbs along with the other fingers outside of the steering wheel.
- Stretch the hand and the muscles of the finger every day.
- Wear a thumb stabilizer for protection of the ulnar collateral ligament without limiting the functions and movement of the hand.