Gamekeeper's thumb, also known as skier's thumb, is a tear of theulnar collateral ligament, a band of tissuethat supports the joint at the base of the thumb.Damage to the ulnar collateral ligament may lead to chronic instability of the thumb, creating problems in its normal functioning. Gamekeeper's thumbcan result from sports activities (while stopping a ball with a bare hand) or a fall on your outstretched thumb (especially while holding onto something like a ski pole). Symptomsinclude pain, bruising and swelling at the base of the thumb. You may also experience loss of strength whenpinching or gripping with the thumb.
To diagnose gamekeeper's thumb, your doctor may numb your thumb and perform a physical examination. If the tear is associated with the fracture of a bone, your doctor may order an X-ray orultrasound.
Your doctor may suggest applying ice to reduce swelling and will prescribe pain relieving medications. Fora partially torn ligament, your doctor may order a splint or cast for about six weeks followed by an exercise program to improve the thumb's range of motion. If the ligament is completely torn, surgery is usually recommended for repair.