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An injury sometimes heard during winter is “skier’s thumb,” which is an acute injury to the ulnar collateral ligament (UCL) connecting the bones at the base of the thumb. The injury occurs when a skier falls with his or her thumb caught in a ski pole; the thumb can pull away from the hand, stressing and tearing the UCL. There are many ways to injure the UCL – it’s a common injury in playing soccer – but “skier’s thumb” is the proper word to describe the condition.

How do you know if you have skier’s thumb?

You’ll likely feel pain and notice swelling directly over the torn ligament at the base of the thumb. You’ll probably have difficulty in grasping or holding objects firmly, such as a tennis racket or baseball. And you may also experience instability or catch your thumb in the pockets of your pants.

The treatment depends on several factors, including the extent of the injury, how long ago the injury occurred, the age of the patient, and the physical demands of the patient. If the tear is partial, and the thumb is not too loose, the patient is usually placed in a cast or a modified wrist splint (called a thumb spica) for four to six weeks.

“If the tear is complete or if the patient has significant instability due to the tear, then surgical options may be considered,” says Dr. Steven J. Heithoff, specialist at Orthopedic Associates of Port Huron. “Procedures are usually more effective when performed within the first few weeks following an injury.”

After the procedure, you’ll be placed in a cast for four to six weeks to protect the repaired ligament. Gentle motion of the finger begins after that. Most patients are able to play sports three to four months after undergoing the procedure.

To consult with one of our doctors at Orthopedic Associates of Port Huron, please call (810) 985-4900 or click on the Appointment Request button.