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Mallet Finger (Baseball Finger)

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KEY POINTS

  • Mallet finger, also known as baseball finger, is a tear in the strong band of tissue that attaches muscles in your child’s hand to the bone near the tip of his finger.
  • Treatment may include splinting the finger, exercise, or surgery.
  • To help prevent injury, 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.

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What is mallet finger?

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.

What is the cause?

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.

What are the symptoms?

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.

How is it diagnosed?

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.

How is it treated?

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.

How can I take care of my child?

To reduce swelling and pain for the first few days after the injury:

  • Put an ice pack, gel pack, or package of frozen vegetables wrapped in a cloth, on the area every 3 to 4 hours for up to 20 minutes at a time.
  • Keep your child’s hand up on a pillow when he sits or lies down.
  • Give your child nonprescription pain medicine, such as acetaminophen, ibuprofen, or naproxen. Read the label carefully and give your child the correct dose as directed.
    • Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory medicines (NSAIDs), such as ibuprofen, naproxen, and aspirin, may cause stomach bleeding and other problems.
    • Check with your healthcare provider before you give any medicine that contains aspirin or salicylates to a child or teen. This includes medicines like baby aspirin, some cold medicines, and Pepto-Bismol. Children and teens who take aspirin are at risk for a serious illness called Reye’s syndrome.
    • Acetaminophen may cause liver damage or other problems. Do not give more doses than directed. To make sure you don’t give your child too much, check other medicines your child takes to see if they also contain acetaminophen. Unless recommended by your healthcare provider, your child should not take this medicine for more than 5 days.

Follow your healthcare provider's instructions, including any exercises recommended by your provider. Ask your provider:

  • How long it will take to recover
  • If there are activities your child should avoid, and when he can return to normal activities
  • How to take care of your child at home
  • What symptoms or problems you should watch for and what to do if your child has them

Make sure you know when your child should come back for a checkup. Keep all appointments for provider visits or tests.

How can I help prevent mallet finger?

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.

Developed by RelayHealth.
Pediatric Advisor 2016.4 published by RelayHealth.
Last modified: 2015-07-21
Last reviewed: 2015-05-27
This content is reviewed periodically and is subject to change as new health information becomes available. The information is intended to inform and educate and is not a replacement for medical evaluation, advice, diagnosis or treatment by a healthcare professional.
Copyright © 2016 RelayHealth, a division of McKesson Technologies Inc. All rights reserved.
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