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What Is Mallet Finger?

Mallet finger, also known as baseball finger, is an injury to a thin extensor tendon that straightens the end joint of a finger or thumb. This injury occurs when an unyielding object (such as a ball) strikes the tip of a finger or thumb, forcing the appendage to bend backward beyond its normal range and causing the tendon to tear. As a result, the tip of the affected finger or thumb cannot be straightened. The long, ring and pinkie fingers of the dominant hand are most susceptible to this type of injury.

What are the symptoms of mallet finger?

Typically, a mallet finger injury causes pain, swelling and bruising in the affected finger. The fingertip will noticeably droop and straighten only if manually pushed upward. If blood is visible underneath the nail or the nail has become detached, it is important to seek prompt medical attention. These are signs of a cut in the nail bed or an open fracture, both of which present a risk of infection.

How is mallet finger treated?

When left untreated, a mallet finger injury can lead to permanent stiffness in the affected fingertip. In most cases, the injury can be addressed conservatively. For instance, a splint can be worn to hold the fingertip straight (in extension) until the damage heals. However, if there is a bone fragment in the joint or the joint has become misaligned (subluxed), a physician may recommend a surgical procedure. A surgeon can place pins to hold the bone pieces together during the healing process.

If you’d like to learn more about mallet finger and the treatment options offered by the fellowship-trained hand and wrist specialists at Advanced Orthopaedics & Sports Medicine of Houston, TX, contact us today.