An ulnar collateral ligament (UCL) tear of the thumb is also called a gamekeeper’s or a skier’s thumb. These names were given because Scottish gamekeepers commonly injured their thumbs as a result of their work and it is also a common skiing injury. It can occur when the skier falls and the thumb is bent in an extreme position. This injury may also be sustained by jamming the thumb on the ground when falling or by jamming the thumb on a ball or other player.
Symptoms and Diagnosis
When the ulnar collateral ligament of the thumb is injured, symptoms include:
Typically, Dr. Leah Urbanosky will ask you to describe your injury and symptoms. She may then carefully examine the thumb to determine whether the ligament is torn and may order an X-ray to make sure the bones of the thumb and hand are not fractured as well. To check the ligament, Dr. Urbanosky may perform a valgus stress test. This involves pushing your thumb backwards and out in different positions. If the ligament is torn, it is immediately treated with a cast or splint. A complete ulnar collateral ligament tear should be treated with surgery to repair the ligament.
The goal of treatment is to help the ligaments heal so that the thumb can be restored to full function.
If the thumb ligaments are only partially torn, they usually heal without surgery. Your thumb will be immobilized for four to six weeks in a cast and after that, you will begin to do prescribed exercises to regain your range of motion and to strengthen your grip. It is important to get treatment right away to achieve the best outcome.
If the ligament is completely torn, you will most likely require surgery because a ligament cannot fully heal itself. Dr. Urbanosky will perform this surgery on an outpatient basis and you will go home the same day.
If you would like to schedule a consultation with Dr. Leah Urbanosky, a specialist in conditions of the hand, please call her office at: (815) 462-3474.
Cysts & Tumors
De Quervain's Tenosynovitis
Carpal Tunnel Syndrome
Traumatic Hand Injuries
Joint Replacement of the Hand
Mallet Finger (Baseball Finger)
Swan Neck Deformity
UCL Tear of the Thumb
Osteoarthritis of the Thumb