Monday, August 13, 2012

Adventures in Nomenclature: Gamekeeper's Thumb

Does anyone else love things that are named after totally antiquated concepts?  When I first read about gamekeeper's thumb in the orthopedics chapter of the Kaplan surgery review book, I felt like I had to really do a bit of research to fully understand the name.

The injury is a tear to a ligament in the thumb (the UCL), and occurs via hyperabduction of the thumb.  Forget the movements of the thumb?  Me too; below is a handy study guide.

hyperabduction. ouch.
So how does a thumb get hyperabducted?  Well, it can happen acutely by falling on an already-outstretched thumb, or apparently in skiing if you fall and your thumb gets stuck in one of the loops of your ski pole (in fact, the injury is also known as skier's thumb).  It also could happen chronically, as with gamekeepers who would kill small animals by breaking their necks with their thumb and forefinger.  And I'm not sure why they got shafted in the naming department, but apparently this was also a common injury among Scottish fowl hunters because they would carry their game home in a bag that they attached to their thumb and threw over their shoulder.

Cumbria. Fun!
Naaaturally, I was curious about gamekeepers, because, um, what the heck is a gamekeeper?  They are usually employed by landowners to prevent poaching and to take care of/maintain the game (not "the game" - oh sorry, you all just lost - but the game as in deer, fish, fowl, etc.).  Turns out there are still 5,000 employed in the UK, and you can even specialize!  Lowlands, uplands, river keepers... the opportunities are truly endless.

If you or someone you know is looking for a career change, you can get a diploma in gamekeeping from the Northern School of Game and Wildlife in Cumbria, England.

gamekeepers gaming


  1. interesting! studying for orthopedics exam at stellenbosch univ, south africa. will try to use the above info in my oral exam.....

  2. Hi,
    I'm a 4th year med student from england and was wondering if I could borrow your picture of thumb movments in my blog? (interesting post by the way! i've never heard of the condition!) (

    1. Hi! I took it from Google Images, so I have no claim over it! Thanks for reading!