A gamekeeper’s thumb, also called a skier’s thumb, is an injury to one of the important ligaments at the base of the thumb joint. The injury involves the ulnar collateral ligament (UCL), a band of tough, fibrous tissue that connects the bones at the base of the thumb. This ligament prevents the thumb from pointing too far away from the hand.
An injury to the ulnar collateral ligament occurs when this structure is stretched too far. The two common descriptive terms for injuries to the ulnar collateral ligament are:
- Skier’s thumb
- Gamekeeper’s thumb
These names are often used interchangeably, although they describe slightly different injury patterns.
Skier’s Thumb: Acute Injury to the UCL
The skier’s thumb injury was described as an acute injury to the ulnar collateral ligament. When a skier falls with his or her hand caught in a ski pole, the thumb can be pulled away from the hand. Because of the shape of the ski pole, the thumb tends to get caught and significant stresses are placed on the ulnar collateral ligament. If the ulnar collateral ligament is pulled far enough, it will tear.