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What’s a Skier’s thumb?

Skier’s Thumb, also known as Gamekeeper’s Thumb, is a common injury that happens during skiing and contact sports. It involves damage to the ulnar collateral ligament (UCL) of the thumb, which provides stability to the joint.

The injury is typically caused by a sudden forceful hyperextension or abduction of the thumb. This can happen during a fall while holding onto a ski pole, especially if the thumb gets caught in the pole strap and is forcefully pulled away from the hand.

What’s a Skier’s thumb?
What’s a Skier’s thumb?

Signs & Symptoms

Skier’s Thumb can present with the following symptoms:

  • Pain at the base of the thumb or on the inner side of the joint.
  • Swelling and tenderness.
  • Weakness or difficulty gripping objects, especially in the hand’s pinch grasp.
  • Bruising in the thumb area.
  • Instability or a feeling of the thumb joint “giving way.”


If you suspect a skier’s thumb injury, it’s essential to seek medical attention promptly. Ignoring the injury or delaying treatment can lead to chronic instability and long-term complications. The treatment approach will depend on the severity of the injury:

  • Rest and Immobilization: In mild cases, wearing a splint or thumb brace can help immobilize the thumb, allowing the ligament to heal.
  • Ice: Applying ice to the injured area can help reduce pain and swelling. Be sure to wrap the ice pack in a cloth to avoid direct skin contact.
  • Pain Management: Over-the-counter pain relievers can be taken to manage pain and inflammation. Always follow the recommended dosage and consult a healthcare professional if you have any concerns.
  • Hand Therapy: Once the initial healing has occurred, a Hand Therapist will show you exercises to help restore strength and flexibility to the thumb
  • Severe Cases: In more severe cases, where the ligament is torn completely or the injury does not respond to conservative treatment, surgery may be necessary to repair the UCL.
What’s a Skier’s thumb?
What’s a Skier’s thumb?


Here are some tips on how to prevent skier’s thumb and similar injuries:

  • Use proper technique when holding ski poles, avoiding putting excessive pressure on the thumb strap.
  • Consider using ski pole straps that release easily to reduce the risk of thumb injury during a fall.
  • Be mindful of hand placement and try to land with open hands during falls to avoid excessive thumb extension.

If you have a Skier’s thumb injury, get in touch with one of our clinics today for an appointment.

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