Houston Methodist. Leading Medicine

Hand FAQ


What's the difference between gamekeeper's thumb and skier's thumb? My husband has been to two different surgeons for thumb injuries after a skiing accident. One called it one thing and the other called it the other. Are they two different things or what?


Skier's thumb (also known as gamekeeper's thumb). The names skier's thumb and gamekeeper's thumb refer to the same injury: tear or rupture of the ulnar collateral ligament (UCL) of the thumb. In the case of skier's thumb (obviously the result of a skiing accident), the UCL is damaged when a sudden force is placed on the thumb. Usually this occurs when the hand is wrapped around a ski pole and the pole comes to a sudden stop but the skier does not. With gamekeeper's thumb, a repetitive force is placed on the thumb over and over again. This name was actually applied many years ago when Scottish gamekeeper's killed wounded rabbits and other small game by breaking their necks. The repetitive force against the web space between the thumb and index finger eventually damaged the UCL. As the description of gamekeeper's thumb suggests, this isn't a common cause of UCL rupture any more. But skiing accidents do still occur and this one is one of the most common hand injuries caused by a skiing accident. Peter C. Rhee, DO, et al. Management of Thumb Metacarpophalangeal Ulnar Collateral Ligament Injuries. In The Journal of Bone and Joint Surgery. November 7, 2012. Vol. 94A. No. 21. Pp. 2005-2012.

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