Opposable thumbs are a very important aspect of the functional use of the human hand. Without our thumbs, fine motor coordination activities would be very difficult to perform. Try tying your shoes without using your thumbs. It can be done, but it’s very difficult to complete.
There are many different thumb injuries that we treat on a regular basis as certified hand therapists. One of the more common thumb injuries we see is called Skier’s Thumb (also known as Gamekeeper’s Thumb). This injury can occur when one falls on their thumb, sometimes while skiing. According to WebMD, this type of injury is the most common injury among skiers and accounts for 8-10% of all skiing accidents. Hence, we get the name Skier’s Thumb.
So, what is Skier’s Thumb? Let’s get the technical information out of the way first. Skier’s thumb is an injury of the ulnar collateral ligament of the metacarpophalangeal joint of the thumb. Say what???
Ligaments serve to stabilize joints. With skier’s thumb, one of the ligaments that stabilizes the joint by the first web space is injured. As a result, the thumb loses side to side stability. There may also be tenderness to palpation at the site of injury. So, what are the treatments for skier’s thumb?
In some cases, surgical intervention is required to reattach the ligament and stabilize the thumb. In other cases, conservative management is sufficient. Conservative management could include casting of the thumb, wearing a pre-fabricated thumb brace, or custom fabrication of a thumb spica orthosis (see picture of one fabricated for a patient in our clinic). Following immobilization for either conservative or surgical intervention, therapy is often recommended. A typical therapy session could include various modalities, massage, range of motion exercises, endurance training, strength training, and fine motor coordination activities. Of course, all of your therapy and custom orthosis fabrication needs can be met right here at Ascend Hand Therapy.
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