Gamekeeper’s Thumb

What is Gamekeeper’s Thumb?

Gamekeeper's thumb, also known as skier's thumb, is a tear of the ulnar collateral ligament, a band of tissue that supports the joint at the base of the thumb.

Causes of Gamekeeper’s Thumb

Damage to the ulnar collateral ligament may lead to chronic instability of the thumb, creating problems in its normal functioning. Gamekeeper's thumb can result from sports activities (while stopping a ball with a bare hand) or a fall on your outstretched thumb (especially while holding onto something like a ski pole).

Symptoms of Gamekeeper’s Thumb

The symptoms of gamekeeper’s thumb include pain, bruising and swelling at the base of the thumb. You may also experience loss of strength when pinching or gripping with the thumb.

Diagnosis of Gamekeeper’s Thumb

To diagnose gamekeeper’s thumb, your doctor may numb your thumb and perform a physical examination. If the tear is associated with a fracture of a bone, your doctor may order an X-ray or ultrasound.

Treatment for Gamekeeper’s Thumb

Your doctor may suggest applying ice to reduce swelling and prescribe pain-relieving medications. For a partially torn ligament, your doctor may order a splint or cast for about six weeks, followed by an exercise program to improve the thumb’s range of motion. If the ligament is completely torn, surgery is usually recommended for repair.

  • University of Notre Dame
  • Saint Joseph Health System
  • Beacon Health System
  •  American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons
  • The American Osteopathic Academy of Orthopedics
  • American Association of Hip and Knee Surgeons
  • American Board of Medical Specialties
  • American Board of Medical Specialties
  • American Board of Foot and Ankle Surgery
  • American Orthopaedic Foot & Ankle Society
  • American Orthopaedic Society for Sports Medicine
  • North American Spine Society
  • American Society for Surgery of the Hand
  • American Academy of Physician Assistants