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A Brief Guide to Treatment of Skier’s Thumb

What is Skier’s Thumb?

The ulnar collateral ligament of the thumb is a ligament that runs through the ulnar side of the thumb and is responsible for the flexing of the thumb. It stabilizes the thumb and provides flexibility. Injury or tear of this ligament is called skier’s thumb or gamekeeper’s thumb. This condition is commonly observed among gamekeepers, Scottish fowl hunters, and skiers, as well as athletes such as volleyball players. It also occurs among people who sustain a fall onto an outstretched hand. The stability of the thumb is important as it is contributes to the grasping function of the hand. In severe cases, the ligament can tear permanently and would require surgery.

A Brief Guide to Treatment of Skier’s Thumb

Symptoms of Skier’s Thumb

One of the major signs of skier’s thumb is the instability of the thumb itself. The growing pain and weakness of the thumb add to the signs. If the person has sustained an injury on or near the thumb then the part near the ulnar collateral ligament gets swollen and sharp pain is experienced. If a person has a doubt whether the ligament has been injured or not, he can exercise a pinching motion. If sharp pain is experience in the region, then it is given that the ligament has been damaged. Inflammation is common result of the tearing of the ligament will occur just after the ligament has been damaged. Slowly and steadily, the pain increases and medical attention becomes a necessity. These are the basic signs one should look out for:

  • Unstable thumb
  • Weakness and increasing pain
  • Sharp pin prick like pain
  • Inflammation
  • Redness or soreness

Causes of Skier’s Thumb

Accidents or falls are some of the most common reasons of a person acquiring a skier’s thumb. The ulnar collateral ligament is not weak but is definitely vulnerable to sudden jerks and excessive strain or stress. 8-10% of all those who get suffer from skier’s thumb get injured in skiing accidents and hence the name of the condition.

Falling down with an outstretched arm and land directly on the palm with pole, puts immense pressure on the thumb, tearing the ulnar collateral ligament.

Automobile accidents are also mildly responsible for this condition as the thumb might get injured while the hand is on the steering wheel. Jabbing of the thumb in the backward position or in a way that the joint is not supposed to move, can injure the ulnar collateral ligament.

A Brief Guide to Treatment of Skier’s Thumb

Precautions to Avoid Complications

  • One of the major reasons of this injury is that skiers do not discard the pole once a fall is ensued. Skiers must be instructed to discard the pole as soon as they realize that they will fall to the ground.
  • The poles generally used for skiing has wrist grips. This should be changed, and instead poles with finger grooves should be used to minimize the chances of injuries.
  • Also while driving, a person should keep their thumbs to the outside of the steering wheel so as to minimize the chances of damaging the ulnar collateral ligament, in a case where the car takes a jerk or gets into an accident.

What are the treatment options?

  1. Thumb Splints - Thumb Splints are one of the most commonly used solutions to immobilize a joint so that any kind of movement of jerk does not damage the joint or muscles. They stabilize the joint and help in the healing process. They allow the skin to breathe and thus expedite healing.
A Brief Guide to Treatment of Skier’s Thumb
           3pp ThumSling Long Thumb Splint​
 
Alimed Freedom CMC ThumbFit Thumb Splint
 
  1. Thumb Spica - Thumb Spicas are one piece systems that immobilize the complete thumb and the wrist. This is usually helpful if a number of tendons and muscles have been affected due to an injury. It makes the hand completely immovable with only the four fingers being allowed to move. It has to be cut once the motive has been accomplished.
A Brief Guide to Treatment of Skier’s Thumb
Alimed Freedom Wrist And Thumb Spica​
 
Alimed Freedom SoftGel Thumb Spica
 
  1. Extension Kits - Extension kits allow the use of one or more splints to keep the thumb in a desired position so as to help in the healing of the tendons and muscles.
A Brief Guide to Treatment of Skier’s Thumb
Base 2 Aluminium Thumb Extension Kit​
 
Base 2 Aluminium Multi-Digit MP Extension Kit
 
  1. Thumb Supports and Braces - Thumb Braces are more useful once the rehab has begun for the injury. They make sure that all the shock and strain is absorbed so that the healing or healed thumb doesn’t undergo any injury again. They can be used as a method of prevention as well.
A Brief Guide to Treatment of Skier’s Thumb
ALPS Universal Thumb Brace​
 
3pp ThumSling Thumb Brace
 

The injuries of the thumb often cause pain in the entire arm and hand as the muscles in the thumb are responsible for the execution of all the work the upper muscles do. The correct treatment methods can heal the injuries within weeks and allow a person to resume their daily activities with ease.

 

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