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Skier's Thumb

Skier's Thumb Facts

  • Skier's thumb is an injury of the soft tissue that connects the bones of the thumb together. In medical terms, this soft tissue is called a ligament.
  • This injury was originally noted in 1955 as a chronic ligament problem seen in Scottish gamekeepers who damaged their thumbs by repeatedly twisting the necks of hares. The injury was termed the "gamekeeper's thumb" at that time.
  • The popularity of recreational downhill skiing has caused this injury to become much more common in the U.S.; as a result, the term gamekeeper's thumb was replaced with the more contemporary term, skier's thumb.
  • Skier's thumb now accounts for a significant number of skiing injuries.
  • In severe cases, with complete tearing of the ligament, this injury must be surgically repaired.
  • The ultimate stability of the ligament is important because of its contribution to the grasping function of the thumb.
  • People with skier's thumb may be able to return to work and even skiing in a short period with proper rehabilitation.

Skier's Thumb Causes

Skiing accidents are the most common causes of damage to the ligament that cause the injury known as skier's thumb. Injuries of this ligament make up 8%-10% of all skiing accidents.

  • More specifically, a fall on an outstretched hand with a ski pole in the palm of the hand creates the force necessary to stress the thumb and stretch or tear the ligament.
  • A simple fall on an outstretched hand with an empty palm usually does not create this same force. However, the thumb can also be injured if it jams into packed snow at high velocity.
  • Another less common cause of this injury is an automobile crash when the driver has the thumb alone draped over the steering wheel.
  • Any injury in which the thumb is abnormally bent backward or to the side can cause skier's thumb.
Last Reviewed 11/17/2017
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Skier's Thumb - Causes

What was the cause of your skier's thumb?

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Skier's Thumb »

Injuries to the ulnar collateral ligament (UCL) of the thumb were first recognized as an occupational condition in European gamekeepers.

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