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Picture of procedure in operation room to treat Skier’s Thumb, Stener lesion.

What is Skier’s Thumb

Skier’s Thumb—also commonly called Gamekeeper’s Thumb (or even Breakdancer’s Thumb)—occurs when the strong band of ligamentous tissue that supports the joint where the thumb meets the palm nearest to the index finger is torn by breaking a fall with the thumb, levering it away from the index finger (as when holding a ski pole). This is known as the ulnar collateral ligament.

Sometimes, there is a fracture which occurs as the ligament is stretched pulling away with a bone fragment attached, occurring generally from the phalanx.

Reverse Skier’s Thumb is a disabling injury, in which the very important ligament on the other side of the joint is torn. When a patient is diagnosed with Reverse Skier’s Thumb, the same treatments are generally used.

Signs and Symptoms of Skier’s Thumb

Metacarpophalangeal joint instability may present similarly to other orthopedic conditions of the thumb and hand. However, patients may notice the following prior to their appointment:

  • Pain at the base of the thumb on the index finger side
  • Swelling
  • Weakened grip
  • Tenderness
  • Bruising
  • Pain with movement

Getting a Diagnosis for Skier’s Thumb

When a patient has been injured while playing a sport, like skiing, or as a result of an accident where their thumb was damaged, your orthopedic hand specialist may do the following as a part of their examination to accurately diagnose Skier’s Thumb:

X-rays

When someone is presenting with pain in their thumb after an injury, Dr. Mark Pruzansky or Dr. Jason Pruzansky may determine that an x-ray will assist in making a diagnosis. X-rays can also help the doctors find out if a fracture is contributing to the patient’s condition.

MRI Scan

Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) is a scan that uses radio waves and magnets to create multiplanar images of bodily structures. It may be helpful to grade the injury and describe damage to the cartilage and other ligaments besides the ulnar collateral ligament.

Treatment Options for Skier’s Thumb

Normally icing, elevation and splinting lead to recovery, but in cases where the ligament tears completely or becomes trapped by an adjacent tendon, surgery may be necessary.

If surgery becomes necessary, your Handsport Surgery Institute surgeon will go through the procedure and recovery with you. However, Skier’s Thumb surgery is a straightforward procedure in which the surgeon most frequently uses suture anchors to secure the damaged ligaments. Occasionally the tissue is reconstructed when the damage is longstanding or irreparable. This is done with a tendon graft usually taken from the forearm.

If You Believe You Have Skier’s Thumb, Contact HandSport Surgery Institute

Please contact us as soon as possible to schedule an appointment with our talented team. Skier’s thumb is best treated as early as possible to help the patient regain as much functionality as possible.Call Dr. Pruzansky at 212-249-8700 to schedule an appointment, obtain an accurate diagnosis, and start to restore comfort to your hand, wrist, or elbow.

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