What is mallet finger?
Mallet finger is an injury of the fingertip joint. It happens when your fingertip comes in contact with an unyielding object. The unexpected force tears the tendon on the top, or nail side, of the finger. That thin tendon’s job is to straighten the tip of your finger. When it is torn away from the connecting bone, you can’t straighten your finger. As a result, the tip of your finger is bent down like a mallet.
There are two types of mallet finger injuries:
- Bony mallet — the tendon rips away a piece of bone when it tears
- Soft tissue mallet — the tendon rips, but the finger bone remains whole
What causes mallet finger injuries?
Mallet finger is most often an athletic injury. Basketball and baseball players are particularly at risk. But a mallet injury can also happen at work, in the kitchen, or anywhere else where your fingertip might be injured.
What are the symptoms of mallet finger?
Symptoms of mallet finger injuries include:
- Pain and tenderness in the fingertip joint (the DIP joint)
- Swelling and redness
- Inability to completely straighten the finger
How are mallet fingers diagnosed?
If you think you might have a mallet finger injury, it’s important to see a doctor right away. If you wait, the finger tendon and bone begin to heal on their own — often crookedly.
Your doctor will use a physical exam and assessment of your symptoms to diagnose mallet finger. Your doctor may also order an X-ray to see whether there are any fractures or breaks in the finger bones.
How is mallet finger treated nonsurgically?
Most mallet finger injuries do not need surgery. Instead, the injury is treated by straightening and splinting the injured finger continuously for six to eight weeks. Keeping the finger in a constantly straight position allows the bone or tendon to heal on its own. The splint stays on 24 hours a day — taking it off risks retearing the tendon.
After the splint comes off, the finger joint will be stiff for a few weeks. However, daily activities are usually enough to help you regain full motion in the finger.
What are the surgical treatment options for mallet finger?
If a bony mallet has broken off a large piece of bone, it can prevent the finger joints from lining up properly. In these cases, your doctor may recommend surgery to place pins that will hold the joint in position while it heals.
Summit Orthopedics provides personalized hand and wrist expertise
The function of our hands is integrated through our wrists and arms to our shoulders; a problem anywhere along our arm may have a significant impact on hand function and quality of life. If you experience an injury or uncomfortable symptoms, our fellowship- trained hand and wrist surgeons are here to help. Summit physicians receive the highest levels of training and exclusively provide individualized care for conditions of the hand, wrist, and elbow.
Summit has convenient locations across the Minneapolis-St. Paul metro area, serving Minnesota and western Wisconsin. We have state-of-the-art centers for comprehensive orthopedic care in Eagan, MN, Plymouth, MN, Vadnais Heights, MN, and Woodbury, MN, as well as additional community clinics throughout the metro and southern Minnesota.
More resources for you
- Learn more about hand treatment advances
- Watch the video: My Finger Won’t Straighten
- Ask Dr. Hildahl: How Do You Treat a Jammed Finger?