Ask the Docs | Mallet Finger
Posted November 10, 2006
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.
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
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.
Ask the Docs | More Patient Questions
Rotator Cuff Tendonitis
When I raise my arms over my head for a rebound or reach to block a shot, I’m having pain in my shoulder. What could be causing this pain? For a detailed answer and treatment options, click here now.
I’m an active runner and have been experiencing pain in my shins. If I stop training, it goes away but comes back as soon as I resume my running activities. Am I suffering from shin splints? If so, what can I do to treat them other than rest? For a detailed answer and treatment options, click here now.
I’m a runner, and lately I’ve been experiencing pain radiating down the back of my leg. It hurts worse when I sit or climb stairs. What is causing this? For a detailed answer and treatment options, click here now.
Iliotibial Band Friction Syndrome (ITBS)
I’m a semi-active cyclist, more of a weekend warrior, really. I have been experiencing sharp burning pain on the outside of my left knee, and even occasionally in both knees. What is causing this pain? For a detailed answer and treatment options, click here now.
Plantar Fascia: A Common Basketball Foot Injury
My heel bothers when I play basketball, and it really hurts when I wake up in the morning and stand up after rest. Is this some type of bruise, or is it a more serious injury? For a detailed answer and treatment options, click here now.
Basketball Injuries in the Female Athlete:
I’ve heard that female basketball players are more frequently injured than their male counterparts. Is there any truth in that? For a detailed answer and treatment options, click here now.
Aging and Basketball Injuries:
I’m a 40-something who still enjoys playing competitive basketball. In my advancing years, should I be worried about any increased health risks from playing this demanding sport? For a detailed answer and treatment options, click here now.
Stretching Before Basketball:
I recently pulled my hamstring during a game even though I stretched thoroughly before playing. Some of my teammates rarely stretch and they don’t seem to get hurt. Does stretching really do any good? For a detailed answer and treatment options, click here now.
Torn or Damaged Cartilage:
After I play basketball, my left knee swells considerably. With ice and rest it mostly goes away, but the swelling comes right back when I play again. What causes this? Is there anything I can do about it? For a detailed answer and treatment options, click here now.
While playing basketball last week, I felt a “pop” in my knee when planting my foot. I now have a considerable swelling and the knee feels unstable. Do I have ligament damage? For a detailed answer and treatment options, click here now.
When I take a jump shot, drive to the basket, or jump to grab a rebound, I often feel a sharp pain behind my kneecap. What causes this? How can it be treated? For a detailed answer and treatment options, click here now.