What is Gamekeepers or Skiers thumb?
Have you ever hurt your thumb by falling and catching your thumb on the way down or knocking your thumb on the ski pole when crashing into the snow? Maybe you used a tool to loosen a stubborn screw and hurt your thumb while forcefully twisting it? If so, you may have an injury known as Gamekeepers or Skiers thumb.
Gamekeeper’s or Skier’s thumb is an injury that happens when your thumb is pushed sideways away from the index finger, tearing the ligaments between the bones in your thumb. Gamekeepers’ thumb can also be caused by an injury that worsens over time.
Because of the potential seriousness of this condition, it is recommended that you see your health care provider to get a correct diagnosis before trying to treat this or any other thumb problem. If necessary, a physician who specializes in treating hand conditions should be consulted.
Symptoms of Gamekeeper’s and Skier’s Thumb:
- Pain in the middle joint of your thumb where it attaches to the hand
- Difficulty grasping or holding objects
- Pinching is painful and hard to do
- Thumb may appear crooked, as though it is leaning away from the hand
As with any injury, reducing pain and swelling are best done with icing and anti-inflammatory medications. Make sure to take the proper dose of anti-inflammatory medication, as taking too little will be ineffective and too much can cause an upset stomach and other concerns.
Wearing a splint that stabilizes and protects your thumb can be worn to give the ligament time to heal. For injuries where a tear or fracture is suspected, your doctor may wish to use a cast or splint for your thumb to facilitate healing. If the ligament has torn away from the bone, wearing a splint will help protect the thumb from further injury until surgery can be done. Usually the type of splint recommended will be a hand based splint that prevents motion at the thumb joint, but allows wrist motion and motion at the end of your thumb. OMA has several splints designed to stabilize and protect your thumb.
Light and Moderate Control Splints:
In mild cases if the ligament remains attached to the bone and is simply inflamed or irritated, splinting with the light control 3pp ThumSpica or the more moderate control Mueller Thumb Stabilizer (shown below) may allow the ligament to heal itself. Sometimes if the splint is worn for several months, the ligament may heal back onto the bone without surgery. Treatment options should be discussed with your physician or surgeon.
Firm Control Splint:
In more severe cases, a firm splint such as the ThumSaver MP will protect the thumb from further injury without limiting wrist motion or function.
Please keep in mind that ligament injuries can take quite a while to heal and removing your splint too early or resuming activities that may aggravate the problem can delay the healing process. This may mean laying off the skiing this season, staying off the baseball field and wearing a splint until your thumb is truly healed and strengthened. A hand therapist can help you during the healing phase and can direct you in an exercise program to regain all important thumb stability.Like what you’ve read? Click here to subscribe to the blog!