An injury of the soft tissue (ligament) that connects the bones of the thumb which is essential for the thumb to grasp. Any hard force on the thumb that pulls the thumb backward or to the side can damage or even completely tear this ligament. Complete tearing of the ligament requires surgical intervention. It can either be sudden (skiers thumb) or chronic (gamekeepers thumb). In skiing the injury commonly occurs if the ski pole pulls back on the thumb or if a skier falls on an outstretched hand. In other sports it can occur over time with repetitive motions that stress the thumb such as blocking in football or setting in volleyball.
- Pain in the thumb, usually worsens with movement in any direction
- Tenderness to the touch along the index finger side of your thumb
- Weakened ability to grasp items between your thumb and index finger
- Swelling or bruising
The doctor may recommend icing the thumb
A certified hand therapist can custom fit an orthosis to immobilize the joint and let the healing process begin. Consult an athletic trainer for taping techniques after the injury has healed.
A doctor may recommend hand therapy for two to four depending on symptoms. Home exercise programs of range of motion and strengthening can be started as tolerated, and avoiding stress to the ulnar collateral ligament.
A doctor may recommend surgery for large or complete rupture of the ulnar collateral ligament to restore the joint stability. After surgery patients are splinted during the healing phase and begin a hand therapy course: pain management, scar management, range of motion, and strengthening.