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Common Ski Injuries #7: Thumb Injuries

We mentioned in the last post how twisting movements involving ski poles may cause injury to the wrist. Given the positioning of the thumb with these implements, it is also a common area of injury.

The most common injury we see in this region is a tear of the ulnar collateral ligament (UCL). So common is this injury that it is colloquially known as “skier’s thumb” (also “gamekeeper’s thumb in hockey). The ligament lies at the articulation between the thumb and the hand, and diagnosis of a tear to the ligament can usually be made by physical examination alone, although x-ray should be used in combination to rule out avulsion fractures. 

Partial tears of the ligament are managed by splinting full-time for 6 weeks, followed by a rehabilitation program strengthening exercises and grip retraining. A brace is typically worn for another 2-3 months upon return to sport. Once pain settles, it is possible to return to skiing fairly early, but within modifications in terms of pole usage, to avoid pressure being put on the thumb. Full function of the thumb will likely not be restored until the 3-4 month mark. 

Full tears require surgical reconstruction, however return to sport following surgery can be relatively quick. Studies have also shown that a delayed surgical intervention does not lead to poorer outcomes, so bracing may be used to get through the season, with surgery put off until the spring. 

If you have suffered a thumb injury on the slopes then contact us now and let us help guide you on the path to recovery. Inquire about our new physio pricing system.

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