A mallet finger is an injury that happens after forceful bending of the joint nearest the fingernail, such as when an object strikes the end of the finger. This results in tearing or overstretching of the tendon that straightens the finger. Occasionally, a small piece of bone breaks off as well; this is called an avulsion fracture. A mallet injury often happens during ball sports and is sometimes called “baseball finger.” Less often, it can be caused by a cut to the back (top) of your finger.
Mallet Finger Symptoms
- A snap or pop is felt or heard.
- There may be pain, bruising or swelling around the small knuckle near your fingernail.
- Sometimes the only symptom is that the fingertip droops and cannot straighten on its own.
Mallet Finger Treatment
Tendons must have the torn ends touching to heal, so you will need a custom splint made for you by a specialized hand therapist to hold your finger in the correct position. This will need to be worn constantly for approximately 8 weeks, to prevent any bending of the injured joint. During that time you will visit your hand therapist for splint adjustments and new exercises. Occasionally, a mallet finger will need to be repaired by a surgeon before coming to therapy, so you should see a doctor within a few days of your injury. If there is blood under the fingernail or the nail is detached it may indicate an injury to the nail bed, which will need to be seen by a doctor as well. Mallet finger injuries that are treated sooner have much better results.
Why should I see a hand therapy specialist?
- Hand therapists at Armworks Hand Therapy are experts at fabricating custom splints to give your finger the best support during healing.
- Healing is an individualized process and occupational/physical therapists (OT/PT) who specialize in hand therapy are better able to adapt your hand exercises, depending on your needs.
- Armworks has Certified Hand Therapists (CHT) on staff. This certification requires 4,000 hours of training and many years of experience to be able to recognize and prevent common complications that can occur with this injury.
- Our six hand therapists have over 105 years combined experience in hand therapy!