Skier's/gamekeeper's thumb

We will restore the stability of your 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.

Return to the slopes just in time

Usually, complete tears of the ulnar collateral ligament require surgical repair and can fail to heal, even with splinting.


Simple low-grade injuries to the ligament can be treated with an episode of splinting followed by rehabilitation supervised by a hand therapist.

Acute repair

An acute repair involves surgical re-attachment of the ligament back to the bone using bone sutures.

Reconstruction of the ligament

Reconstruction of the ligament may be required for a delayed or late repair. New ligaments are often reconstructed using another tendon (graft) from the wrist which occasionally require a temporary wire to help stabilise the joint.

Skier's/gamekeeper's thumb: Aftercare

Post-surgery, the thumb will require full time splinting for up to eight weeks.
Supervised hand therapy will be required following mobilisation to help regain range of motion and strength.

Skier's/gamekeeper's thumb: Our hand specialists

With a multidisciplinary team and experts in the fields of both hand/wrist conditions and ski injuries, your care is in the most capable hands possible.

Skier's/gamekeeper's thumb: Our specialised hospital

Schoen Clinic has experts in the prevention, diagnosis, treatment and aftercare of all aspects of hand conditions. With a state-of-the-art diagnostics suite, surgical theatres and aftercare all at the same our Orthopaedic & Spinal hospital has all you need to resume mobility in your hands.

Schoen Clinic Orthopaedic & Spinal Hospital London - The LaingBuisson Hospital of the Year 2019.

66 Wigmore Street
London W1U 2SB
Tel: +44 20 3929 0801

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