Mallet Finger

A mallet finger is a deformity of a finger caused when a certain tendon (the extensor tendon) is damaged. When a ball or other object strikes the tip of the finger or thumb, the force damages the thin tendon that straightens the finger. The force of the blow may even pull away a piece of bone along with the tendon. The finger or thumb is not able to be straightened. This condition is also known as baseball finger.

Mallet Finger Causes

Mallet finger occurs when the outermost joint of the finger is injured. With mallet finger, the tendon on the back of the finger (not the palm side) is separated from the muscles it connects. Three types of injuries commonly occur:

  • The tendon is damaged, but no fractures (bone cracks or breaks) are present.
  • The tendon ruptures with a small fracture caused by the force of the injury.
  • The tendon ruptures with a large fracture.

Mallet Finger Symptoms

People with mallet finger may delay seeking medical attention, even though they may be in a great deal of pain, simply because they can still use their hand.

Symptoms of mallet finger may include the following:

  • Pain, tenderness, and swelling at the outermost joint immediately after the injury
  • Swelling and redness soon after the injury
  • Inability to completely extend the finger, but the patient can move it with assistance

When to Seek Medical Care

Contact doctor immediately to evaluate the injury to determine the need for X-ray films, and to repair any deep cuts. The doctor may recommend an appointment with a hand surgeon for further evaluation, splinting, or surgery.

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