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Ask the Docs | Mallet Finger

Ask the Docs
Posted November 10, 2006

  • AthletiCo Bulls' Injury Report

    Patient Question:
    While playing basketball last week I jammed my finger on the ball. My finger is still painful and swollen, but only at the fingertip. I also have trouble straightening the tip of my finger. Do you think anything is broken?

    Dr. Mark Cohen:
    The description of your injury sounds very much like Mallet Finger. Mallet Finger is a common injury in basketball players and also in baseball and football players. Also commonly known as “baseball finger,” the injury usually occurs when a ball or hard object jams or strikes the end of your finger.

    Mallet Finger can be the result of the extensor tendon that straightens the tip of the finger being torn from its attachment on the bone or from a small fracture in the bone. Usually the fingertip will be very sensitive, painful, and swollen. The pain is often accompanied by not being able to fully extend the tip of the finger. Left untreated, Mallet Finger can cause irreparable loss or motion to the fingertip (a droop at the tip) and a cosmetic deformity. Fortunately, functional problems are rare.

    Dr. Cohen Dr. Cohen
    Treatment Options:
    Early treatment of Mallet Finger can lead to a full recovery. Physicians will usually recommend the use of ice to reduce the swelling and pain at the fingertip. In addition, a small splint is typically used to enable the finger to heal fully straight. The splint may have to be worn for up to six weeks. However, it only crosses the distal joint of the finger and thus allows for continued use of the hand.

    It is important to follow your doctor’s orders and keep your splint on. If you remove the splint too early, you may jeopardize the healing that has occurred and the finger could return to a bent position.

    In some extreme cases of Mallet Finger, doctors may recommend surgery to correct the deformity. These cases are rare and usually surgery is only needed if there is a large fracture of the bone in association with the injury.

    For more information about Dr. Cohen and the Sports Medicine physicians of Midwest Orthopaedics at Rush, call 877.MD BONES or visit them online at www.rushortho.com.

    The information contained on this page is intended only for general public education, and is not intended to serve as a substitute for direct medical advice. This information should not replace necessary medical consultations with a qualified orthopaedic physician.



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