Mallet Finger is an injury to tendon that straightens the end of a finger or thumb. In this condition the finger bends down beyond normal and cannot be straightened actively. It is also known as 'Baseball finger'.
In Mallet Finger, usually 3 types of injuries occur:
The tendon is damaged, but no fractures are present;
The tendon ruptures with a small fracture caused by the force of the injury.
The tendon ruptures with a large fracture.
This condition can happen to anyone but basketball and baseball players are especially susceptible. In children the injury may involve the cartilage that controls bone growth.
Mallet Finger occurs when the finger gets crushed or a ball suddenly strikes the finger and tears the tendon. While this may happen anytime, it's a common phenomena while playing games like basketball, baseball and volleyball.
Pain, tenderness and swelling on the joint is felt immediately after injury. Followed by an inability to completely straighten the finger but being able to move it with external help. In case of fracture, there may be blood beneath the nail or the nail may get detached.
Usually physical examination and the symptoms are enough to indicate the condition. However, X-ray tests are conducted to find out if there is a fracture. No other tests are generally required.
The most common and usually preferred way to treat Mallet Finger is to wear a splint on the injured finger. The splint has to be worn, for 8 weeks at all times including bathing and sleeping. If the splint is removed for any purpose, the finger should still remain extended till the time the splint is put back on. For 3-4 weeks after the 1st 8 weeks, splint can be worn less frequently, perhaps only at night.
Physiotherapy may be done while the splint is still on. It may include cold therapy, passive and active range of motion exercises and strengthening exercises. Further, home treatments and exercises may be suggested by the physiotherapist once the splint is removed.
For some patients, if the splint is not comfortable, the doctor may insert a temporary pin across the fingertip for 8 weeks.
In case of fracture, surgery may be the only treatment for full recovery of the finger. But majority of mallet finger injuries can be treated without a surgery.
Mallet finger injuries that are not treated typically result in stiffness and deformity of the injured fingertip. In some cases, even after the treatment, it may take several months for the finger to properly regain function. Any redness, swelling and tenderness of the skin over the end of the finger may persist for the first few months after the injury. These symptoms will usually improve eventually. To get yourself treated for Mallet Finger, get in touch with your physiotherapist now.