Symptoms and Signs of Skier's Thumb

Medical Author: John P. Cunha, DO, FACOEP
Medically Reviewed on 9/19/2022

Doctor's Notes on Skier's Thumb

A skier's thumb is an injury to a ligament that connects the bones of the thumb together. Partial injuries to the ligament are usually treated with immobilization. In severe cases where the ligament is completely torn, surgery is the only option. The stability of the ligament is important because it is essential to the grasping function of the thumb. 

Symptoms of a skier's thumb may include

  • the inability to grasp or weakness of grasp between the thumb and index finger (most important),
  • tenderness to the touch along the index finger side of the thumb (most important),
  • pain at the base of the thumb in the web space between thumb and index finger,
  • swelling of the thumb,
  • blue or black discoloration of the skin over the thumb,
  • thumb pain that worsens with movement in any or all directions, and
  • pain in the wrist (which may be referred pain from the thumb).

What Is the Treatment for Skier's Thumb?

The treatment of a skier’s thumb depends on the severity of the injury. If the injury is due to only a partial tear in the ligament, treatment may involve rest with a splint or a cast for 6 to 8 weeks. 

After the rest period, therapy exercises to strengthen the area and regain range of motion to the thumb joint are usually prescribed. Return to strenuous activity such as skiing or other sports may involve the need for a brace or functional splint for several additional months.

If the ligament is completely torn or too damaged to heal on its own then surgery to repair the ligament is needed. Splinting or casting may be done after surgery for several weeks to ensure the ligament heals properly. Similar to partial tear injuries, the patient will need physical therapy exercises after healing and may be required to wear a functional brace when returning to sports.

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Kasper, D.L., et al., eds. Harrison's Principles of Internal Medicine, 19th Ed. United States: McGraw-Hill Education, 2015.