A sprained thumb is a common injury among athletes. This injury happens when an ulnar collateral ligament (UCL) — tough and flexible tissue that connect bones in the thumb — gets stretched too far or tears. A thumb UCL injury can be very painful and make the thumb feel unstable. The injury can limit movements, such as squeezing and gripping, needed for many sports.
• Bruising, swelling, and tenderness at the base of the thumb
• Weakness when grasping with the thumb and index finger
• Pain that worsens when moving your thumb
• A lump and swelling on the inside of the thumb
• Thumb feels loose and not secure
A thumb UCL injury often results from a fall onto an outstretched hand that causes the thumb to bend away from the palm.
With regards to skiing, the injury often occurs when a person lands on an outstretched hand while holding a ski pole. It is called skier’s thumb but can also occur in football, handball, basketball, rugby and even a handshake.
Skier’s thumb is an injury to the ulnar collateral ligament. This ligament is at the base of the thumb on the side near the pointer (index) finger. It helps keep the thumb stable when grasping or pinching objects. With skier’s thumb, the ligament is stretched or torn (sprained).
Treatment of a thumb UCL injury will depend on the severity of the injury. Mild and moderate sprains can be treated conservatively without surgery. These treatments include:
• Rest: Avoid activities, such as racket sports, that involve heavy use of the hands and gripping movements.
• Ice: Apply cold packs to reduce swelling.
• Medication: Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory (NSAID) medication like ibuprofen can help to relieve pain.
• Cast: For moderate sprains, bandage, splint, or cast to keep your thumb joint immobilized until it can heal.
• Physical Therapy: Gentle exercises can help reduce stiffness and increase mobility in your thumb joint.
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