Thumb UCL Injury (Skier’s Thumb)

A UCL injury, also known as skier's thumb, is a tear or sprain of the ulnar collateral ligament in the thumb, causing instability and pain in the thumb. Learn more about ulnar collateral ligament thumb injuries from the Hand/Wrist experts at Resurgens.

What You Need To Know About a UCL Injury

What is a Thumb UCL Injury?

The UCL ligament stabilizes the thumb and supports motions like grasping, gripping, or pinching. The UCL runs along the inner side of the thumb's metacarpal-phalangeal (MCP) joint.

A UCL injury occurs when the UCL (ulnar collateral ligament) in the thumb tears from overextension or forceful bending, often during sports or physical activity. This association with sports injuries has led to the nickname "skier's thumb." When the ulnar collateral ligament tears, it causes instability and pain in your thumb.

If you're struggling with daily activities due to an ulnar collateral ligament thumb injury, schedule an appointment with our Hand and Wrist experts today.

What Causes a Thumb UCL Injury?

The most common cause of a UCL injury is sustaining direct trauma to the thumb. A sudden contortion of the thumb, either backward or to the side, can sprain or tear the tissues and ligaments in the ulnar side of the thumb. Many UCL injuries occur when falling onto an outstretched hand or gripping something during a car accident.

This condition is most common among athletes and people who participate in activities like basketball, football, baseball, racket sports, or snowboarding. A UCL tear is also commonly known as "skier's thumb" because when the hand is strapped to a ski pole, the thumb is more vulnerable to a UCL injury.

UCL Injury Symptoms

When the UCL injury occurs, you may experience pain or a popping/tearing sensation on the ulnar side of the thumb. Other UCL tear symptoms include:

  • Bruising

  • Swelling

  • Stiffness

  • Instability

  • Weakness

  • Limited range of motion

How is a Thumb UCL Injury Diagnosed?

In order to diagnose skier's thumb, your Resurgens physician will first discuss your medical history with you and ask you how the condition began. Then, they will perform a physical exam to check pain levels, range of motion, and whether the joint is stable. The exam will only cause some brief discomfort.

After the physical exam, your physician will order imaging to rule out any other potential conditions. Using state-of-the-art hand diagnostic testing, your doctor will give you a formal diagnosis and create a custom treatment plan for your recovery.

UCL Injury Treatment

There are many types of UCL injuries, and they vary in severity. There are both non-surgical and surgical treatment methods available for skier's thumb, and your Resurgens physician will be able to recommend the best treatment option for you.

Non-Surgical Treatment

The majority of UCL injuries can be treated using non-surgical methods. Your doctor may put your thumb in a splint or cast to immobilize the hand during healing.

Some other non-surgical treatment methods include:

<h3> Surgical Treatment

For more severe UCL injuries where the tear has been displaced, surgical intervention may be required. Surgery usually involves repairing the torn UCL and reattaching it to the bone using sutures or grafts. These procedures have a high percentage of success and can help you get moving again.

If you're having debilitating UCL pain that is interrupting your daily life, schedule an appointment with a Resurgens Hand and Wrist physician today.