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How to prevent skier's thumb

Physio Phebe gives her tips on the best way to avoid injuries whilst skiing.

How to prevent Skier's Thumb

Skier’s thumb is a sprain of the ulnar collateral ligament which is the ligament on the inner side at the base of your thumb. It is commonly referred to as skier’s thumb because a typical cause is from falling directly onto your ski pole, which forces your thumb joint out and back.

The simple way to try and prevent it from happening has to do with how you put your hand through the pole strap before you set off down the run.

The RIGHT way

The right way is to reach your hand underneath the strap and then grip the pole handle over the top of it. Then if you fall, you can easily let go of the pole and let it drop away from your hands.

The WRONG way

If you come in through the top of the strap, if you fall you can’t simply let go of the pole and you are more likely to land with the pole handle jammed up against the thumb joint which is the position that causes the ligament to strain.

What to do for skier’s thumb

If this tip has come too late and you suspect you have a skier’s thumb injury, it typically presents as a sudden onset of pain in the base of the thumb and you may have heard a popping sound. It’s then usually tender to touch and becomes quite swollen. A common sign is also that your pinching grip between your thumb and first finger becomes weak.

You should usually have an x-ray first to rule out any fractures, then a physio is able to perform a test to assess the stability of the ligament. These types of injuries are often neglected by people with the expectation they will improve on their own, which means by the time you often seek help it may be too late for effective treatment. So if you fall and feel pain anywhere, it is important to see a physio ASAP so that long term deformity and loss of function can be avoided.

Your first point of call at Hotham is the Hotham Medical Centre, where the medical and physio staff will guide you through the right process and get you back out on the slopes ASAP.


"Physio Phebe" is our go-to for injury prevention and management advice for all things snow sports. Based in Bright, she is a director of Ovens Valley Physio & Pilates, who also service Hotham over the season. Following her love of alpine and action sports, Phebe works with Olympic athletes in skiing and mountain biking and is highly sought after to provide physio services to international teams and events.



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