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Mallet Finger

When it comes hand and finger injuries, our orthopedists have pretty much seen it all, including mallet finger. We can diagnose and provide and individualized treatment plan designed to help your child recover and regain full use of the injured finger.

What is mallet finger?

Mallet finger, also known as baseball finger, is when the tendon on the top of a finger or thumb is stretched or torn. This makes it hard to straighten. When an attempt is made to straighten it, the tip of the finger remains bent toward the palm of the hand. This injury sometimes includes a small fracture of the finger.

What causes mallet finger?

Sports injuries are the most common cause of mallet finger, particularly from catching a ball.

Tendons attach muscles to bones. The tendon that attaches to the tip of the finger bone on the back side helps straighten the fingertip. Mallet finger occurs when this tendon:

  • Is stretched or torn
  • Pulls a piece of bone away from the rest of the bone (avulsion fracture)

Mallet finger most often occurs when something hits the tip of a straightened finger and bends it down with force.

What are the signs or symptoms of mallet finger?

The most common signs and symptoms are:

  • Pain and swelling in the tip of the finger or thumb
  • Problems extending the finger or thumb

How is mallet finger diagnosed?

You will be asked about your symptoms and health history. A physical exam will be done. It will focus on the hand. This is often enough to make the diagnosis. Some people may need to see a doctor who treats hands.

Images may be taken to check for a fracture. This can be done with an X-ray.

How is mallet finger treated?

Wearing a splint on the finger to keep it straight is the most common treatment for mallet finger. Your child may need to wear a splint for different lengths of time.

If the tendon is only stretched, not torn, it should heal in 4 to 6 weeks if the splint is worn all the time.

If the tendon is torn or pulled off the bone, it should heal in 6 to 8 weeks of wearing a splint all the time. After that, your child will need to wear the splint for another 3 to 4 weeks, at night only.

If you wait to start treatment or your child DOES NOT wear the splint as prescribed by the doctor, it may have to be worn it longer. Surgery is rarely needed except for more severe fractures.

The splint is made of hard plastic or aluminum. One of our orthotic specialists will make your child's splint to make sure it fits correctly and the finger is in the right position for healing.

Your child's splint should be snug enough to hold the finger in a straight position so that it does not droop. But it should not be so tight that it cuts off blood flow.

Mallet Finger
A stretched or torn tendon can result in mallet finger

What is the long-term outlook?

With proper care and time to heal completely, your child should have full recovery and use of the injured finger.

We're here to help.

If your child has been diagnosed, you probably have lots of questions. We can help. If you would like to schedule an appointment, refer a patient or speak to our staff, please call our offices at 682-885-4405.

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