Skier’s Thumb—Beyond The Slopes

How do you know if you have skier’s thumb? You’ll likely feel pain and notice swelling directly over the torn ligament at the base of the thumb. You’ll probably have difficulty grasping or holding objects firmly, such as a tennis racket or baseball. It’s possible that you may also experience instability or catch your thumb in the pockets of your pants.

The necessary treatment approach depends on several factors, including the extent of the injury, how long ago the injury occurred, the age of the patient, and the physical demands of the patient. If the tear is partial, and the thumb is not too loose, the patient is usually placed in a cast or a modified wrist splint (called a thumb spica) for four to six weeks.

If the tear is complete, or if the patient experiences significant instability due to the tear, then surgery may be considered. Surgery is usually most effective when performed within the first few weeks following injury. If possible, the surgeon will repair the ligament by reattaching the torn ends. If the ligament is separated from the bone, then the torn end will be sutured down to the bone itself.

If the injury to the UCL is older, a direct repair is likely not possible. In this case, either another structure will be transferred to reconstruct the ligament, or one of the muscles at the base of the thumb will be advanced to compensate for the torn ligament.

After surgery, you’ll be placed in a cast for four to six weeks to protect the repaired ligament. Gentle motion of the finger begins after that. Most patients are able to play sports three to four months after surgery.

For more information or questions about skier’s thumb, contact the doctors of Sierra Pacific Orthopedics at (559) 256-5200 or click here.