Mallet Finger

What Is Mallet Finger?

Mallet Finger: Causes, Symptoms, and Treatment

Mallet finger, also referred to as baseball finger, is a condition characterized by a tear in the finger’s extensor tendon, responsible for straightening the finger. This injury causes the fingertip to droop noticeably and often results from jamming or forceful bending of the fingertip during various activities. It’s particularly common among baseball and basketball players who frequently encounter direct blows to the finger from balls or similar objects, which can lead to an avulsion fracture, where a piece of bone tears away with the tendon.

Symptoms of Mallet Finger

Mallet finger symptoms are typically evident and include:

  • Pain
  • Swelling
  • Bruising
  • Noticeable drooping of the fingertip
  • Occasional blood accumulation under the nail or nail detachment from the nail bed

Diagnosis of Mallet Finger

While mallet finger is often diagnosed through physical examination, doctors may recommend X-rays to rule out additional injuries like bone fractures or joint misalignments.

Treatment Options for Mallet Finger

First Aid Measures Immediate first-aid for mallet finger involve:

  • Applying ice to reduce swelling
  • Elevating the injured finger above heart level
  • Over-the-counter pain relievers or anti-inflammatories

Non-Surgical Treatment

If mallet finger doesn’t involve a bone fracture, a splint is applied to maintain full finger extension during the healing process. The duration of splint wear varies, typically ranging from 4 to 8 weeks. Sometimes, it’s worn full-time initially and later only during sleep. Adhering to the doctor’s instructions is vital for optimal recovery, preventing complications like stunted growth in children or prolonged recovery in adults.

Surgical Treatment

Surgery may be necessary when X-rays reveal:

  • Large bone fragments
  • Joint misalignment
  • Severe deformity
  • Severe dysfunction
  • Significant tendon damage

In such cases, surgical intervention may involve using hardware to align and hold bones correctly during the healing process. Joint fusion or tendon repair with grafts might also be performed.

Potential Complications

While complications are rare, patients should seek medical attention if they experience worsening pain, skin color changes, numbness, tingling, or persistent swelling after treatment.

Recovery from Mallet Finger

For most patients, wearing a splint is the primary treatment for mallet finger. During healing, the splint may be temporarily removed for cleaning, but finger straightness should be maintained. Patients can generally resume most daily activities with the splint in place. Though some individuals may not fully regain fingertip extension, they typically achieve full or nearly full finger functionality with appropriate treatment and care.

City Orthopaedics & Sports Medicine is committed to providing top-notch patient care for mallet finger and a wide range of orthopedic conditions. Contact us today for expert guidance on your path to a full recovery.

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