When the soft tissue that connects the bones of the thumb together are injured or damaged in some way, surgery will be needed to repair the ligament. This can be a painful injury that can occur only hours after a fall or incident.
What is Skier’s or Gamekeeper’s Thumb?
People with skier’s thumb, also known as gamekeeper’s thumb, typically incur the injury during an accident where the thumb ends up bending backward or to the side. This injury is known as an ulnar collateral ligament (UCL) injury in the joint where the thumb and the hand connect. The UCL is responsible for keeping the thumb stable so you can pinch an object so any damage to this area severely compromises your ability to hold things.
Symptoms of this condition include, pain at the base of the thumb joint, swelling, difficulty grabbing and throwing objects, and bruising. Athletes who use their hands, such as those who play football or participate in wrestling matches, are more at risk for this condition.
Skier’s or Gamekeeper’s Thumb Treatment
Treatment includes surgical and non-surgical options. Non-surgical treatment may include applying a cold compress and ice to reduce swelling, taking over-the-counter pain medication, and wearing a splint or cast until the injury heals. Surgical treatment involves cleaning the damaged tissue and anchoring the ligament to the bone with a small suture. If the bone is fractured, pins must be placed in the tissue to hold the tissue together until it heals.
Dr. Kilaru recommends getting treatment within a month of the injury to ensure optimal healing.
What to Expect with Treatment
Recovery and healing rates vary by patient but most patients who are fitted with a cast, with or without surgery, need about six weeks to heal. Those who undergo surgery more than a month after the injury may need to wait much longer for a full recovery.
If you think you may have skier’s or gamekeeper’s thumb, or any other type of hand injury, come in for an evaluation with Dr. Kilaru as soon as possible.