Mallet finger is a condition in which the end joint of a finger bends and is unable to straighten on its own or retain a straight position when pulled. This occurs when the extensor tendon in the finger is stretched or torn, or the bone attached to the tendon is broken (fractured).
Symptoms of Mallet Finger:
- Inability to straighten the fingertip on its own.
- Swelling, Redness and Pain.
Causes of Mallet Finger:
- Jamming the tip of the finger against an object.
- Direct blow to the tip of the finger. (This injury often occurs while playing sports like basketball or volleyball).
- May follow a laceration to the top of the finger.
A diagnosis of mallet finger is made by physically examining the finger. An x-ray is taken in order to determine if a fracture is present.
In most cases, treatment consists of splinting the fingertip and securing the end joint in hyperextension. This allows the tendon to heal properly. The splint is custom made by a hand therapist. It is worn at all times for six to eight weeks. The hand therapist will usually make two splints and instruct on changing them after bathing.
If the injury is associated with a broken bone or does not respond to splinting, surgical repair may be recommended and is performed as an outpatient procedure. Generally, a small pin is placed across the affected joint for approximately six to eight weeks. It is then removed in the office. Hand therapy may also be indicated following surgery, depending on the severity of the injury.