Mallet finger is when you cannot straighten your finger. When you try to straighten it, the tip of your finger remains bent down toward your palm.
Common causes of a mallet finger are sports injuries, particularly from catching a ball.
Tendons attach muscles to bones. The tendon that attaches to the tip of your finger bone on the back side helps you straighten your fingertip.
A mallet finger occurs when this tendon:
Mallet finger most often occurs when something hits the tip of your straightened finger and bends it down with force.
Wearing a splint on your finger to keep it straight is the most common treatment. You may need to wear the splint for different lengths of time.
If you wait to start treatment, you may have to wear your splint longer. Surgery is almost never needed except for more severe fractures.
Your splint is made out of hard plastic or aluminum. A trained professional should make your splint to make sure it fits correctly and your finger is in the right position for healing.
You will likely be able to return to your normal activities or sports, as long as you wear your splint all the time.
Be careful when you take off your splint to clean it.
When you shower, it is a good idea to cover your finger and splint in plastic. If they get wet, dry them after your shower. Be careful to keep your finger straight while you are drying it.
Using an ice pack can help for pain. Apply the ice pack 20 minutes of every hour you are awake for the first 2 days, then 10 - 20 minutes 3 times daily as needed to reduce pain and swelling.
You can also try pain medicines such as ibuprofen, naproxen, or acetaminophen.Talk with your health care provider if you have:
Do not take more than the amount recommended on the bottle.
When it is time for your splint to come off, your health care provider will check how well your finger has healed.
If you finger has not healed at the end of your treatment, your health care provider may recommend another 4 weeks of wearing the splint.
Call your doctor if:
Baseball finger; Drop finger; Avulsion fracture - mallet finger
Sokolove PE. Extensor and flexor tendon injuries in the hand, wrist, and foot. Roberts J, Hedges J, eds. Roberts: Clinical Procedures in Emergency Medicine. 5th ed. Philadelphia, Pa: Saunders Elsevier; 2009:chap 48.
Updated by: Jacob L. Heller, MD, MHA, Emergency Medicine, Virginia Mason Medical Center, Seattle, Washington. David Zieve, MD, MHA, Medical Director, A.D.A.M. Health Solutions, Ebix, Inc.
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