The Powerless Finger: Mallet Finger


Finger In A Splint
You try to straighten your finger and a once simple, easy task has become impossible. This may be a result of mallet finger. Also known as “baseball finger”, mallet finger is an injury to the tendon that straightens your finger (the extensor tendon) and affects its strength.


Mallet finger can happen to anyone. If your finger is forced to bend further than it is intended to go, the fingertip droops and cannot straighten on its own. This usually occurs when an object strikes the finger.


If you’ve had a severe blow to your finger, the injury may cause the finger to be: 

  • Painful
  • Swollen
  • Bruised (especially if there is an associated fracture)
  • Unable to be straightened 

The inability to straighten your finger is often the main/only symptom since the extensor tendon has been injured and deformed. 

Diagnosis and Treatment
A hand specialist usually makes a diagnosis based on the history of the injury and an examination of your finger. X-rays may be ordered to see if a piece of the bone has pulled away and to make sure the joint is aligned. 

Most mallet finger injuries can be treated without surgery. After the injury has occurred, ice should be applied immediately and your hand should be kept elevated. You should seek medical attention within a week after the injury, especially if there is blood beneath the nail or if the nail is detached. 

Non-Surgical Treatment
The goal of non-surgical treatment is to keep the fingertip straight until the tendon heals. Often, the doctor will want you to wear a splint full-time for eight weeks. Over the following three to four weeks, you may find yourself needing to wear the splint less frequently. At this time, the finger usually regains function and a normal appearance. However, it is not unusual for the finger to still not be completely straight even after this initial treatment. 

What to Do Next
In order to assure that your splint is fitted properly, consultation with a certified hand therapist is recommended. The hand therapist will also show you exercises to maintain motion in the middle joint (the proximal interphalangeal joint) so your finger does not become stiff, making this next step very important. Once your mallet finger has healed, your surgeon or hand therapist will teach you exercises to regain motion in the fingertip. 

Surgical Treatment
You may be in need for surgical repair if there is a large bone fragment or joint mal-alignment. In these cases, pins, wires or even small screws are used to secure the bone fragment and realign the joint. Surgery may also be considered if you are unable to wear a splint full time for eight weeks.

Your hand surgeon will be there to advise you on the best technique for your situation if you are unsure what is right for you.

Who Can Help?
Get your finger back to normal with the best care and consultation at Advanced Specialty Care. Our board certified hand specialists can treat mallet finger as well as carpel tunnel syndrome, nerve injuries, osteoarthritis, and unslightly conditions like ganglions, arthritic spurs, protruding veins and skin blemishes. Our hand specialst office is located in the Fairfield County, CT, town of Danbury. 


Topics: Blog, Hand Surgery