Mallet finger, also known as baseball finger, is a tear in one of the tendons in your 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 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 your outstretched fingers, such as catching a ball in baseball, basketball, or volleyball. The stress of the injury can pull the tendon off the bone, tear a small piece of bone off the finger, or tear the tendon itself.
You may have pain and swelling at the tip of the finger, and not be able to straighten the tip of your finger. If you don’t get medical care for within a week or two after the injury, you may permanently lose the ability to straighten your finger.
Your healthcare provider will examine you and ask about your symptoms, activities, and medical history. You may have X-rays or other scans.
Your healthcare provider will straighten your finger and put it in a splint for 6 to 12 weeks. This will allow the tendon to reattach to your finger bone or, if a piece of bone has been pulled off, to allow the bone to heal.
Your provider may recommend stretching and strengthening exercises to help you heal after the splint is no longer needed.
If the injury is severe, you 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 you 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. Follow the safety rules for your work or sport and use protective equipment, such as gloves, taping, splinting, or protective strapping before a game.