By Dr. Walker Winkoop, MD

Q: What is a gamekeeper’s thumb?

A: A gamekeeper’s thumb refers to a torn ligament at the base of the thumb on the index finger side. This injury occurs by forcibly pulling the thumb away from the index finger. With few exceptions, ligaments usually heal if properly protected by splinting. However, the thumb ligament is one ligament that doesn’t heal when there is splinting.

Many years ago, in England, gamekeepers would tear this ligament while dispatching hunted rabbits. Physical examinations, along with local anesthetics and x-rays, are very good at making the diagnosis. I recommend surgery within several days of the injury with sturdy fixation that allows immediate therapy.

Walker Wynkoop, MD

Walker Wynkoop MD lives in Los Banos and is a Board-Certified Orthopedic Surgeon with 30 years experience. He works at Surgical Affiliates of California. Please email questions to: