Ulnar Collateral Ligament Sprain of Thumb
(Skier’s Thumb; Gamekeeper’s Thumb)
An ulnar collateral ligament (UCL) sprain is an injury to the ligament of the first thumb joint. A ligament is a band of tissue that connects bone to bone. A sprain is tearing of a ligament.
This sprain is caused by trauma to the ligament. This can happen from a fall or sports injury. It can also be from repeated stress on the UCL.
Things that raise the risk of this problem are:
- Sports, such as skiing, football, biking, and soccer
You may have:
- Weakness when holding or squeezing things
- Poor range of motion
You will be asked about your symptoms, health history, and how the injury happened. A physical exam will be done. It will focus on the thumb. This is often enough to make the diagnosis.
Images may be done to find out how much harm was done. This can be done with:
Copyright © Nucleus Medical Media, Inc.
Treatment will depend on how severe the injury is. The goal is to ease pain and improve movement. Options are:
- Medicine to ease pain and swelling
- A splint or cast to keep the thumb from moving as it heals
- Exercises to help with strength, flexibility, and range of motion
Surgery may be needed for a severe sprain or complete tear.
Most strains are due to accidents. They cannot always be prevented. The risk may be lowered by using the correct techniques when playing sports.
Family Doctor—American Academy of Family Physicians
Ortho Info—American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons
Canadian Orthopaedic Foundation
Skier’s thumb. British Society for Surgery of the Hand website. Available at: http://www.bssh.ac.uk/patients/conditions/32/skiers_thumb. Accessed August 2, 2021.
Sprained thumb. Ortho Info—American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons website. Available at: https://orthoinfo.aaos.org/en/diseases--conditions/sprained-thumb. Accessed August 2, 2021.
Ulnar collateral ligament injury of the thumb. American Society of Hand Therapists website. Available at: https://www.asht.org/sites/default/files/docs/2016/UCL%20Injury%20of%20the%20Thumb%202016.pdf. Accessed August 2, 2021.
Ulnar collateral ligament sprain of thumb. EBSCO DynaMed website. Available at: https://www.dynamed.com/condition/ulnar-collateral-ligament-sprain-of-thumb. Accessed August 2, 2021.
Last reviewed July 2021 by EBSCO Medical Review Board Warren A. Bodine, DO, CAQSM Last Updated: 8/2/2021