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Skier's/Gamekeeper's Thumb Treatment Orange County

Leading Hand Surgeons Treat UCL Tears

Skier’s thumb, medically known as ulnar collateral ligament (UCL) tear, causes pain in the metacarpophalangeal (MCP) joint at the meeting point of the thumb and the hand because of a torn ulnar collateral ligament (UCL). The purpose of the UCL is to stabilize the thumb so it can pinch and grasp objects. An injury to the UCL is painful and can result in a lack of strength and function in the thumb

Once you have sustained a skier’s thumb injury (also called gamekeeper’s thumb), you should immediately book an appointment with a hand surgeon specializing in hand/upper extremity orthopedic treatment to ensure the optimal outcome of your condition. Patients who receive orthopedic treatment within a month of sustaining skier’s thumb often heal more quickly than those who wait it out and don’t seek medical attention immediately following the injury.

Symptoms of Skier's/Gamekeeper’s Thumb (UCL Injury)

Those most likely to sustain skier’s thumb are skiers who fall and don’t let go of their ski poles, thus jerking their thumb away from the index finger and sometimes completely rupturing the UCL. However, anyone may sustain a UCL tear if they have an accident where the thumb is pulled unnaturally far or to the side.

You should be able to easily identify the symptoms of gamekeeper’s thumb, which include:

  • Pain and swelling at the base of the thumb
  • Difficulty grasping, pinching, or throwing objects
  • Unstable thumb at its base
  • Bruising at the base of the thumb

Diagnosis of Skier’s/Gamekeeper's Thumb (UCL Tear)

During a physical exam with your hand surgeon who specializes in treating hand and upper extremity conditions, your doctor will visually examine the hand and thumb, ask you how the injury occurred, and review your reported pain level and other symptoms. X-ray imaging tests can determine if the patient has a different condition, such as if there is a piece of bone that has pulled off the ligament, which requires a different treatment protocol.

Treatment of Skier’s/Gamekeeper’s Thumb (UCL Tear)

Patients with an injured UCL typically require immobilization with a splint or cast for up to 6 weeks to reduce swelling for a better surgical outcome. Surgery may be a first-line treatment option if the UCL tear is severe and involves accessing the torn ligament via small incisions, then cleaning the damaged tissue, and then anchoring the tissue to the ligament attached to the thumb bone for added support. If the patient has also fractured a bone, pins may be inserted to ensure proper healing. Following surgery, the patient will wear a brace or cast for another 6 weeks, and orthopedist-prescribed physical therapy will follow to restore range of motion and reduce pain or swelling.

Contact Hoag Orthopedic Institute today at (855) 999-4641 for an appointment with one of our Hand Surgeons.

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