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Skier's (gamekeeper's) thumb

Skier's (gamekeeper's) thumb

Skier's thumb is the most common injury within skiing accidents. The thumb endures a stretching injury as it is forced back by a ski pole during a fall.

At Schoen Clinic, we have leading experts in the field of hand and wrist conditions, ski injury experts and a multidisciplinary team working together to effectively resolve your symptoms. Our team of ski specialists will ensure that your injury is treated successfully, with minimal pain so you can return to the slopes in a short time.

What is a skier's thumb?

The injury is known by a variety of names, but most commonly “skier’s thumb.” While it can often occur during a skiing accident, the condition is not limited to a fall on the ski slopes. Also known as “gamekeeper’s thumb”, “cyclist’s thumb”, “driver’s thumb” and “footballer’s thumb”, the associated activity may differ, but the nature of the injury is similar in all cases.

Skier's (gamekeeper's) thumb: symptoms are clear indicators

Pain and swelling at the base of the thumb are clear indicators of skier’s/gamekeeper’s thumb which makes pinch and grasp activities very difficult. The pain and swelling may only last for a week or two but movement can remain affected. As pinching and grasping relies on the injured thumb ligament, an injury to it may result in the thumb feeling unstable during these activities. You may have difficulty writing, turning a door handle, or holding a glass. Sometimes this may become apparent in pain or weakness during these activities.

Causes: how does a skier's thumb occur?

The breaking of the ulnar collateral ligament (first metacarpophalangeal joint) is one of the most frequent injuries sustained from sporting activities and can result in pain and instability in the thumb. This injury is caused by a force that pushes the thumb away from the fingers, creating pain, bruising and swelling in the area and can be caused by a single force or due to repeated forces.

The radial collateral ligament is found on the other side of the thumb which can tear, but this is not as common as a tear on the ulnar side of the thumb.

Diagnostics: how we identify a skier's (gamekeeper's) thumb

Your specialist will examine your thumb to assess if there is a ligament injury. X-rays will reveal if there is a related hand or thumb fracture. The diagnosis and severity of the injury can be confirmed with an ultrasound or an MRI scan.