Sports Medicine

Our Specialties

Thumb Sprain


The ulnar collateral ligament is the main ligament in the thumb. Ligaments are soft tissue structures that connect two bones to make a stable joint.


A sprained thumb, or gamekeepers thumb, is an injury to the ulnar collateral ligament. A tear in the ulnar collateral ligament at the base of the thumb will cause instability and discomfort, weakening your ability to pinch and grasp.


Weakness, either with or without pain, is a primary symptom of a sprained thumb. Pain may or may not occur immediately following the injury. Other symptoms include bruising, tenderness and swelling.

Nonsurgical Treatment

If the ulnar collateral ligament of the thumb is only partially torn, your physician will probably immobilize your thumb joint with a bandage, cast or splint until the injury heals.


When the ligament is completely torn, surgical treatment, soon after the injury, may be necessary to help you regain normal stability. Delay in treatment may prevent direct repair from being possible.

During surgery, your orthopaedic surgeon will reconnect the ligament to the bone. If fragments of bone were pulled away with the ligament as it was torn from the bone, your surgeon may also remove bone fragments or put them back into the correct position, held with a pin or screw.

With any surgery there are some risks, and these vary from person to person. Complications are typically minor, treatable and unlikely to affect your final outcome. Your orthopaedic surgeon will speak to you prior to surgery to explain any potential risks and complications that may be associated with your procedure.