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  • Writer's pictureDr. Terrell Joseph

What Is Skier’s Thumb?

Skier's thumb is a common skiing injury

Skier's thumb is an injury that can occur when the ulnar collateral ligament (UCL) is extended beyond its normal range of motion, resulting in it being stretched or torn.

This injury occurs when you fall onto an outstretched hand, causing the thumb to bend backward. It's called skier's thumb because it commonly happens when a skier falls with a ski pole in their hand, forcing their thumb away from their hand.

Although skiing accidents are the most common cause of UCL injuries, they can happen to anyone who is at risk of falls, such as snowboarders and mountain bikers.

Symptoms of Skier's Thumb

Location of the ulnar collateral ligament

The symptoms of skier's thumb will vary depending on the severity of the injury and may include the following:

  • Pain around your thumb joint (base of thumb)

  • Swelling or bruising

  • Pain that worsens with movement

  • Difficulty grasping objects with the thumb and index finger

If you are experiencing symptoms of skier’s thumb, don’t wait to seek orthopaedic care. An untreated UCL injury can lead to chronic pain and long-term instability.

Treating Skier's Thumb

Skier's thumb is often treated with a cast or splint

Dr. Joseph of Vail-Summit Orthopaedics & Neurosurgery specializes in hand conditions and injuries. He will accurately diagnose your injury and develop a personalized treatment plan that gets you back on the slopes as quickly as possible.

Skier's thumb injuries can range from mild to severe and are graded based on the amount of damage to the ligament.

  • Grade 1: Mild injury where the UCL is stretched but not torn

  • Grade 2: Moderate injury where the UCL is partially torn

  • Grade 3: Severe injury where the UCL is completely torn

Mild to moderate (grades 1 and 2) can often be treated with conservative measures, including:

  • RICE (rest, ice, compression, and elevation)

  • Anti-inflammatory drugs for swelling and pain

  • Cast for three to four weeks, followed by a splint for up to six weeks or until full function and range of motion are restored

If you've suffered a grade 3 injury where your ligament is completely torn or if there are bone chips or fractures, Dr. Joseph may recommend surgery as the best treatment option to ensure a full recovery.

Surgical repair involves reattaching the ligament to the bone using suture anchors or screws. After surgery, a cast or splint will be worn for up to six weeks, followed by physical therapy to restore movement and regain strength.

Contact the Go-To Hand Specialist For Expert Orthopaedic Care

Contact Dr. Joseph at Vail-Summit Orthopaedics & Neurosurgery today if you're experiencing thumb pain after a skiing accident. As the top hand specialist in Eagle and Summit counties, Dr. Joseph will work with you to develop the least-invasive treatment plan possible so that you can get back on the slopes or back to the activities you love.

Call 970-476-7220 to request an appointment. Same-day appointments are often available!

Questions about skier's thumb or another injury? Ask Team Joseph or request a consultation using our online form.

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