Could I Have Skier’s Thumb?

Do the winter temperatures have you itching to hit the slopes? If so, be wary of a common skiing injury: skier’s thumb, also known as gamekeeper’s thumb.

We talked to Andrew Markiewitz MD, a hand surgeon with the TriHealth Hand Surgery Specialists, to learn what to do if you sustain this injury, and how to prevent it.

Skier’s Thumb: What is it?

Skier’s thumb is an injury to the ulnar collateral ligament (UCL), which makes the thumb unstable in pinch or grip. It usually occurs when people use ski handles that are not built to break away on the top, or have a strap. “Specifically, if you take a blow – you go down and try to catch yourself, usually what happens is your thumb gets bent backwards or to the side, and that’s how you rip it,” Dr. Markiewitz explains.

This injury is also common in basketball and sports that involve using a racket.

What Does Skier’s Thumb Look Like?

Most people have bruising and swelling on the inside of their thumb. You may also notice instability, weakness or pain when you try to grip objects.

I Have Skier’s Thumb: What Should I Do Right Away?

In cases where the injury isn't an emergency (learn how to tell), Dr. Markiewitz says to follow the RICE treatment method.

The RICE treatment method includes:

  • Rest
  • Ice (ice should be wrapped in a towel to avoid freezing or irritating the skin)
  • Compression (wrapping the injury in an elastic bandage)
  • Elevation (the hand should be elevated to heart level)

How Can I Prevent Skier’s Thumb?

Dr. Markiewitz says ski pole handles have been redesigned to either break away or not have grips, so your best bet is to go with a newer model. “Unfortunately, there are not a whole lot of preventive options,” he adds.

Tags Orthopedics