Mallet finger refers to the involuntary flexion of the distal phalanx of a finger
caused by the disruption or tearing of its extensor tendon.
General information about Mallet finger
In mallet finger, which often occurs as a sports-related injury, the tendon on the back
of the finger becomes damaged or torn near the outermost joint. Without the support
provided by the tendon, the short bone at the tip of the finger drops downward at an
awkward angle. This bone, referred to as the "distal phalanx" of a finger, is
the one furthest from the palm. In addition to tendon damage, mallet finger may involve a
fracture of the distal phalanx.
Mallet finger symptoms
Symptoms of mallet finger include pain and swelling around the top part of the
finger, near the outermost joint. These symptoms occur right after the injury. Redness and
swelling develop soon afterward. The tip of the finger has an abnormal-looking downward
droop, and it may be difficult to fully extend the finger.
Treatment of Mallet finger
If symptoms of mallet finger appear, the affected individual should consult a physician
or seek emergency care. In the meantime, ice (wrapped in a towel or cloth) can be applied
to the affected area to help reduce swelling and alleviate pain.
Treatment usually involves wearing a splint around the top of the affected finger in
order to keep it extended and allow the injury to heal. The splint must be worn at all
times for six to eight weeks, though it may be briefly removed to wash the finger, but
with extreme care so as not to allow the fingertip to bend. For the next six to eight
weeks after that, the splint need only be worn during sleep or athletic activities.
If the bone at the top of the finger has sustained a large fracture, surgery may
necessary. If the tendon was damaged due to a cut, stitches may be required both to repair
the tendon and to adequately close the wound.