What is skiers thumb?

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Skiers thumb is an injury that involves the ligaments that connects the bones of the thumb together. Due to the popularity of recreational downhill skiing, it has been the main cause of this injury. The injury currently accounts for a large number of skiing injuries. In severe cases that are accompanied with the tearing of the ligaments, it would require surgery. The stability of the ligament is vital since it contributes to the overall grasping function of the thumb. Individuals who have skier’s thumb can return to work after the appropriate treatment measures are provided.

Causes of skiers thumb

Skiing accidents have been considered as the most common cause of damage to the ligament. There are also other causes of this injury.

  • Falling on an extended hand with the ski pole in the palm of the hand creates force that can apply stress on the thumb and eventually stretch or tear the ligament.
  • Simple falls with the hand extended with an empty palm can injure the thumb if it jams into packed snow at high velocities.
  • Any injury where the thumb is bent backward abnormally or on the side.
  • Vehicular accidents in which the thumb is draped over the steering wheel.

Symptoms of skiers thumb

skier's thumb
Simple falls with the hand extended with an empty palm can injure the thumb if it jams into packed snow at high velocities.

The symptoms of skiers thumb typically occur in a span of minutes up to hours after a fall or skiing accident.

  • Swelling of the thumb
  • Pain at the base of the thumb in the webbed space amidst the thumb and index finger
  • Incapability to hold or weakness of grasping between the thumb and index finger
  • Soreness alongside the index finger next to the thumb
  • Pain in the thumb that worsens with movement
  • Wrist pain

When to seek medical care

If the individual experiences any of the symptoms of skier’s thumb right after an injury, it is best to consult a doctor as soon as possible.

First aid care at home

The first aid care at home must manage the pain and swelling of the thumb. Initially, apply ice on the affected thumb for 35 minutes at a time for 4 times in a day. Avoid applying ice directly on the skin. Continue the application of ice until the pain subsides. If you want to learn how to use ice on soft tissue injuries, click here.

Movement of the thumb must be avoided as much as possible. You can loosely place an ACE bandage or a wrist brace in neutral position in order to immobilize the thumb to help minimize the pain.

Provide over-the-counter medications such as ibuprofen and acetaminophen for pain relief as well as minimizing the inflammation.

Even if first aid is provided at home for skiers thumb, it is important that the injury is examined by a doctor or any healthcare professional during the initial days after an injury was sustained.

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