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What is Mallet Finger?

Mallet Finger, sometimes called baseball finger, happens when the tendon that straightens the tip of your finger is injured and you often can no longer straighten your finger. It is typically caused by a hard blow or jamming of the fingertip.

Symptoms of Mallet Finger

Pain and swelling at the tip of your finger is the most common symptom. You may also be unable to completely straighten the finger. If you wait too long to seek medical attention for this injury, you may permanently lose the ability to straighten that finger. 

Mallet Finger Diagnosis

A healthcare provider will need to do a hands-on examination of your finger to diagnose Mallet Finger. They may also order an x-ray to see if there is a fracture as well as a tendon injury. It is common for a tendon injury of this type to pull off a piece of bone that would need to be repaired.

Treatment for Mallet Finger

Surgery is not often required to treat Mallet Finger. Your finger will be straightened and splinted for up to six weeks to allow the tendon and bone to heal and reattach. It is important to keep the splint in place as long as ordered to promote healing. Not wearing the splint can lead to permanent deformity of your finger.

Swelling is a common problem with this injury so you will likely be told to apply ice packs to the injured finger for 20 to 30 minutes, every four hours for the first few days or until swelling goes down. You should keep the finger elevated as much as possible, resting it on a pillow when lying down or on the back of a chair or couch when sitting. Rehabilitation after healing is often recommended to restore full function of the finger.

Rehabilitation for Mallet Finger

Rehabilitation exercises for Mallet Finger can often be done at home as directed by your healthcare provider. Extreme cases of Mallet Finger may require additional physical or occupational therapy. 

Common rehab exercises for a Mallet Finger injury include:

Finger passive range of motion: Help the injured joint by gently bending it and straightening it with your other hand slowly, holding for 5 seconds at the end of each motion. Repeat 10 times. 

Hold a fist: Form a fist with your injured hand, assisting the injured finger with your other hand if needed to help it bend. Hold for 5-10 seconds. Repeat 10 times.

Object pick-up: Practice picking up small objects such as coins, buttons or marbles with the injured fingers and your thumb. Repeat 10 times. 

Finger extension: Lay your hand flat on the table with your fingers straight out. Lift each finger up one at a time, holding for 5 seconds before putting it down. Do this with all fingers. Repeat 10 times.

Grip strengthening: Squeeze and hold a rubber ball for 5 seconds. Do three sets of 10.