Mallet Finger Injury

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We are leaders in our profession, locally owned and operated by physical therapists who forge relationships with patients, and advocate for their care. All of our clinics have board-certified specialists on staff, meaning you get the highest level of care to maximize your recovery, and get you back to your game. We will listen, evaluate your symptoms, and create a personalized physical therapy program to meet your needs and improve your function, strength, and mobility.

If you’ve heard the term, mallet finger injury, that refers to an injury to the tip of the finger. A mallet finger injury occurs from a hard impact to the tip of a finger when the finger is in a straight or extended position. This typically occurs when a ball hits the tip of the finger during a sporting activity; however, activities such as tucking in a bed sheet have also been known to cause a mallet finger. The injury may feel like a “jammed finger” and is noticeably swollen, and painful, and results in a fingertip that is unable to straighten. 

Anatomically speaking, a mallet finger injury is when a blow to the tip of the finger causes a tendon to abruptly detach resulting in the inability to straighten the finger. Surgery is not normally required and instead, a splint is recommended to secure the finger in extension. Here are some answers to common questions about mallet finger from Makovicka Physical Therapy’s Hand Therapist: 

Who can mallet finger affect? 

Mallet finger can affect any person at any age. It is most commonly related to sports activities such as baseball and volleyball. But this injury can occur with any impact on the fingertip during any activity. 

How do I know I have a mallet finger injury? 

During an examination with your primary care provider, you will be asked to straighten the tip of your finger. The inability to perform this action is a positive diagnosis of a mallet finger injury. An X-ray will most likely be obtained to identify if the injury resulted in an avulsion fracture. An avulsion fracture occurs when a small piece of bone remains attached to the tendon that detached instead of tearing completely away during the blow. Larger fractures or dislocations may be identified by X-ray. 

What is the treatment or therapy for a mallet finger injury? 

A splint is recommended to support the tip of the finger in extension. The splint is to be worn 24/7. During this time, patients with mallet finger are asked to refrain from forcefully bending their finger downwards and avoiding tight grips or making a tight fist. A hand therapist can custom-make an orthosis, or one can be bought over the counter. After the finger has been in an orthotic for approximately 6 to 8 weeks, therapy is recommended to assess the finger to develop a plan to regain range of motion and strength. 

Have you, or someone you know, suffered a blow to the finger resulting in an avulsion fracture? Call Makovicka Physical Therapy’s Hand Therapist at the University Place clinic to schedule an appointment.