Exams and Tests
The physician will first make sure you have no other limb-threatening injuries and then evaluate your thumb in more detail.
The doctor will ask you how the injury happened. Be prepared to answer these questions:
- At what time did your injury take place?
- What was the exact positioning of your hand and thumb during the injury?
- How soon after the injury did the pain and swelling begin?
- Did it feel as if your thumb was stressed beyond its normal range of motion?
The doctor will also ask about your past medical history. Be prepared to answer these questions:
- Have you ever suffered from a similar injury before?
- Have you ever had any type of surgery in your hand or wrist?
- Are you allergic to any pain medications?
- Have you ever fractured any bones in your wrist or hand?
- Are you right-handed or left-handed?
- What is your primary occupation?
The doctor will then perform a physical examination and include the following tests:
- A comparison of the movement of the injured thumb with that of the uninjured thumb
- An assessment of how well the major nerves in your hand function
- A check for fractures, including an X-ray of your hand to make sure no bones are broken
- An examination of the rest of your arm for any associated injuries to your wrist, forearm, elbow, and shoulder
Skier's Thumb Treatment Self-Care at Home
If you suspect that you may have a skier's thumb, then home care should address the pain and swelling of your thumb. Take the following steps to reduce your pain and swelling.
- Apply ice to the thumb for 35 minutes at a time, up to 4 times per day. Do not apply ice directly to your skin. Continue to use ice until the pain stops. (You should see your doctor as soon as possible after the injury and then follow a doctor's directions for ice therapy.)
- Avoid movement of the thumb as much as possible. The loose application of an ACE wrap or commercially available wrist brace in the neutral position will help immobilize the thumb. This will help lessen your pain.
- Take acetaminophen for pain relief or ibuprofen for anti-inflammatory action. Avoid both of these over-the-counter drugs if you have stomach problems and cannot tolerate them.
- The most important aspect of home care is to ensure that the injury is fully evaluated by an emergency doctor, orthopedic surgeon, or your primary care physician in the first few days.
If the doctor determines that you have a skier's thumb, then referral to an orthopedic or hand surgeon will be the next step. The orthopedic surgeon will determine when your thumb needs to be reexamined. At that time, your options for surgical versus nonsurgical therapy will be discussed.
Typically, partial injuries to the ligament are immobilized for several weeks, while complete rupture of the ligament usually requires surgical repair.