Skier’s thumb (or gamekeeper’s thumb) is a type of injury that involves damage to the ulnar collateral ligament in your thumb. It most often happens after you fall and catch yourself with an outstretched hand. The name came from the frequent falls of skiers, but this condition can affect anyone who damages their UCL from trying to save themselves from a nasty fall.
If you have skier’s thumb, you may notice pain in your thumb and a weak grasp. You may also notice that the joint in your thumb is unstable. The severity of your symptoms depends on the severity of the UCL tear, as well as how long you’ve allowed the injury to progress.
To prevent the injury from getting worse, you should seek treatment as soon as you start noticing symptoms.
If the injury isn’t too severe, you may be able to heal it on your own. While your thumb is healing, you’ll need to wear a splint to keep it immobile or apply ice periodically to bring down swelling. After healing has begun, you’ll perform exercises to strengthen the thumb.
In cases where the tear is more extensive, you may benefit from stem cell injections. Stem cell injections work by encouraging the tissues in the UCL to regenerate on their own.
Very severe tears often require surgery.
Surgery is often necessary when the UCL is completely torn. The goal is to reconnect the ligament to the bone so you can move your thumb normally again.
In some cases, the tear may have pulled fragments of bone away as well. In these situations, Dr. Devanny will remove these fragments or restore them to their proper places with pins or screws.
Every patient is different. However, you typically wear a cast for approximately six to eight weeks after this procedure. In the few days immediately after your surgery, you may take over-the-counter or prescription pain relievers to deal with any post-operative pain. Dr. Devanny will tell you how long you should expect your recovery to last before you schedule the surgery.
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