Ulnar Collateral Ligament
(Skiers Thumb, Gamekeepers Thumb)
The large knuckle joint of the thumb (called the Metcarpal Phalangeal (or MP) joint) is one of the most important joints in the hand. Although relatively little motion occurs at this joint, it is required to provide extensive strength and stability. This strength enables us to strongly grasp objects and maintain a tight grip when needed.
Surrounding the MP joint of the thumb are the collateral ligaments which provide stability to the joint. One of the major ligaments, the Ulnar Collateral Ligment (UCL), is among the most commonly injured in the thumb because of it’s location on the top portion of the joint. UCL injuries, also referred to as Gamekeeper’s Thumb and Skier’s Thumb, are often a result of repetitive twisting of the joint or significant force pushing back on the thumb joint (such as breaking a fall with the hand extended).
Without the stability of the Ulnar Collateral Ligament, the MP joint is not stable and can cause significant pain in the region.
Complete or partial tears to the UCL will require surgery to repair the ligament. Following surgery, the physician will often prescribe rehabilitation with a hand therapist to fabricate a custom splint for support while the injury heals, and then to begin a comprehensive treatment program to increase range of motion, strength, and function in the MP joint.
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