Mallet finger, also known as baseball finger, is a tear in one of the tendons in your child’s hand. Tendons are strong bands of tissue that connect muscle to bones. The muscles that move the fingers are in the forearm. Long tendons go from these muscles, through the wrist, to the small bones near the tip of the fingers. These tendons are used to extend or straighten your child’s fingers.
Mallet finger is usually caused by a jamming injury to the tip of the finger. This can happen with any activity where there is a blow to the tips of outstretched fingers, such as catching a ball in baseball, basketball, or volleyball. The stress of the injury can tear the tendon, pull the tendon off the bone, tear a small piece of bone off the finger, or damage the cartilage that controls bone growth.
Your child may have pain and swelling at the tip of the finger, and not be able to straighten the tip of his finger. If your child doesn’t get medical care for within a week or two after the injury, he may permanently lose the ability to straighten his finger.
Your child’s healthcare provider ask about your child’s symptoms, activities, medical history, and examine your child. Tests may include X-rays or other scans.
The healthcare provider will straighten your child’s finger and put it in a splint for 4 to 6 weeks. This will allow the tendon to reattach to your child’s finger bone or, if a piece of bone has been pulled off, to allow the bone to heal.
Your child’s provider may recommend stretching and strengthening exercises to help your child heal after the splint is no longer needed.
If the injury is severe, your child may need surgery to repair the tendon or reset the bone.
To reduce swelling and pain for the first few days after the injury:
Follow your healthcare provider's instructions, including any exercises recommended by your provider. Ask your provider:
Make sure you know when your child should come back for a checkup. Keep all appointments for provider visits or tests.
Mallet finger is caused by a direct blow to the end of the finger during an accident that may be hard to prevent. Make sure that your child follows the safety rules for his sport and uses protective equipment, such as gloves, taping, splinting, or protective strapping before a game.