A mallet finger is a relatively common hand and finger injury suffered by athletes in sports with flying objects, like basketball. In this video, I discuss the nature of a mallet finger injury and its treatment.

What is a mallet finger?

A mallet finger refers to an injury in which the tendon that extends the finger is pulled off the bone at the fingertip. Usually a ball or some other objects hits you on the tip of the finger and suddenly pushes it down.

What should you do after such an injury occurs?

It’s a good idea to see an orthopedic surgeon or hand surgeon in the day or two after suffering an injury with that mechanism, even if you don’t think you broke a bone. Often the healing of the tendon depends on how soon you start the treatment. People often think that because the swelling isn’t that bad, they didn’t suffer a serious injury. Weeks or months later, they still can’t extend the tip of the finger, but now the treatment is much more difficult.

Illustration of a mallet finger injury

How is a mallet finger injury treated?

Usually treatment involves splinting the tip of the finger to keep it fully straight. You leave the splint on all the time to allow the tendon to heal to the bone. Often taking off the splint can disrupt the healing. The tendon usually heals with 6 to 8 weeks of splinting. After the doctor allows the patient to come out of the splint, he or she might need some work with a hand therapist to regain range of motion and strength of the injured finger.

Also read:
Skier’s thumb: Injury, diagnosis and treatment
Hand injury: Common injuries in exercise and sports

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