Skiing is a high speed activity that can be very dangerous. In addition to skier’s thumb, a variety of injuries due to trauma, such as bone fractures and various sprains are common in an activity that involves the levels of speed and motion required in skiing. Skier’s thumb is the name given to a ligament injury in the middle joint at the base of the thumb. This condition results from trauma that occurs during a fall to the skier’s outstretched hand, while still holding the ski pole.
Snowboarders have both feet strapped to the board, making it difficult to recover their balance. Accordingly, falls are the leading cause of snowboarding injuries, which generally involve the upper extremities. Most injuries occur during a snowboarder’s first year of experience, often during the first day.
Professional instruction is important for beginners. Obtaining equipment that is properly fitted, adjusted and designed for the skiier’s or snowboarder’s size and skill level will decrease the chance of falling, therefore decreasing the risk of injury. Inexperienced and young skiers must be realistic when choosing equipment with regard to skill level. All skiers and snowboarders and particularly those who are inexperienced should rest often on their first day on the slopes and whenever they become fatigued.
Initial treatment of skiing-related sprains involves rest, ice, compression and elevation. We monitor minor sprains to determine if they require further treatment. Serious sprains are braced and usually require physical therapy to regain range of motion and strength. Activities are gradually resumed. In the most serious cases in which non-invasive options are inadequate, surgical procedures can be performed to repair the damage. An orthopedic surgeon can discuss treatment options.
When treating skiier’s thumb, serious tears require weeks of casting or bracing support and surgery may be necessary. When not properly treated, thumb strength is decreased permanently. This injury can be prevented by not wrapping the pole straps around your thumbs, so that they do not become entangled when falling.