Timely Skier’s Thumb Treatments Can Help Restore Full Function
Skier’s thumb is an injury to the connective soft tissue (ligament) around the bones of your thumb. This ligament is responsible for the movement and stability of your thumb. Although skier’s thumb is typically the result of a skiing accident, it can also occur from other trauma, such as a fall or automobile accident. Dr. Gregg Vagner can provide a variety of timely and effective treatments for skier’s thumb at our Austin, TX, practice. Depending on the severity of your injury, treatment may include nonsurgical bracing for an allotted amount of time or hand surgery for more complex cases. If you do require surgical intervention, Dr. Vagner uses advanced, yet minimally invasive techniques that have been proven safe and effective.
What is Skier’s Thumb?
Skier’s thumb is a severe injury to the ligament of the thumb, located between the thumb and first knuckle. Its primary responsibility is to keep the thumb stabilized and functioning properly so you can easily grip items. This injury is so named because it typically occurs when a skier falls while holding a pole with his or her thumb extended, causing the thumb to be overstretched in an outer direction. The severity of skier's thumb varies from a stretched ligament, a partially torn ligament, or a completely torn ligament. In some cases, a hand fracture can also be involved.
Dr. Vagner uses advanced, yet minimally invasive surgical techniques that have been proven safe and effective.
Signs and Symptoms
Side effects can occur immediately after injury, or even manifest days after the accident happens. You may have skier’s thumb if you are experiencing symptoms between the base of the thumb and index finger that include:
- Pain or tenderness
- Swelling and bruising
- Difficulty grasping objects
- Instability of thumb
- Increased pain when moving your thumb
- Wrist pain
Treating Skier’s Thumb
During your consultation, Dr. Vagner will perform a thorough examination of your thumb to determine the severity of your injury. If he is concerned that a fracture may be involved, he can also have x-rays taken to locate the point of break. In cases where the ligament is overstretched or only partially torn, treatment generally includes resting the thumb and wearing a brace for approximately four to six weeks to keep it protected and stabilized.
If the ligament is completely torn, it will require surgery. This procedure is performed as an outpatient procedure and involves a small incision along the inner and outer part of your thumb to repair the damage. During hand surgery, Dr. Vagner can suture the ligament back together and anchor it to an adjacent bone. In cases where a major fracture has occurred, the bone can be stabilized with pins or screws. Once the procedure is completed, Dr. Vagner will close the outer incision with sutures and place your hand in a cast to immobilize the thumb for four to six weeks.
Recovering From Surgery
Before you are released to go home, Dr. Vagner will provide you with at-home care instructions to follow to ensure you achieve a smooth recovery. Instructions will include:
- Taking pain medications as directed to minimize discomfort
- Keeping the hand elevated to reduce swelling
- Physical therapy to prevent stiffness in the shoulders and elbows
After the cast is removed, you should begin range-of-motion exercises to help strengthen and restore your thumb back to full function. In most cases, you can return to normal activities in approximately three months; however, any activity that could cause added stress to the ligament should be avoided. Most patients can expect to achieve a full recovery six months after the procedure.
Contact Us Today
If you have recently experienced pain and swelling in the base of your thumb, you may be struggling with skier’s thumb. It’s important to visit our offices as soon as possible to prevent further damage to your hand and wrist. To schedule your consultation, contact us online or by calling (512) 476-2830.