A mallet finger occurs when the end of the finger bends and you cannot straighten it.
This is caused by an injury to the structure that lifts the fingertip, the extensor tendon.
It may involve just the tendon or sometimes part of the bone comes away with the tendon, known as an avulsion fracture.
Causes of Mallet Finger
The injury is usually caused by a direct blow to the fingertip (for example by a ball) or as easily as pushing your finger down between cushions or tucking in a sheet.
Sometimes people describe a popping sensation at the time of the injury and there is often very little pain.
Symptoms of Mallet Finger
Immediately after injury, the fingertip may be swollen and bruised.
It is not necessarily painful.
The fingertip is dropped and cannot be straightened.
Treatment of Mallet Finger
It is important to obtain an Xray, this helps determine the most suitable treatment method for your injury. If there is a bone fragment involved this can mean a quicker recovery.
The fingertip must be held straight, and is not allowed to bend. If the fingertip is allowed to bend even once the injury can be re-ruptured, and will not go on to heal. Even old injuries can heal with a period of continuous immobilization.
A hand therapist can make you a customized thermoplastic splint, which keeps the fingertip straight and allows healing. You must wear the splint for up to 6-8 weeks continuously before movement of the fingertip can commence.
After this a further 4-6 weeks of night splintage and a slow increase in range of movement and function is required.
Our hand therapist will advise you on your length of immobilization, check your skin and the fit of your splint. They will provide a graded home exercise program to regain your finger flexion (bend) and return to functional activities in a safe timeframe, whilst also maintaining your active finger flexion.