What is a Mallet Finger?
A mallet finger is a condition where the end of the finger (also called the Distal Interphalangeal Joint, or DIP) is bent and does not straighten.
How does Mallet Finger Occur?
Mallet finger occurs when the extensor tendon is damaged, or the bone where the tendon attaches is fractured. The extensor tendons in fingers are responsible for extending, or straightening, the finger.
Causes of Mallet Finger
Mallet finger often occurs due to sports activities (such as baseball, football, basketball), but may occur from other injuries. It often occurs from a direct and forceful impact on the finger, which jams the DIP joint.
Signs and Symptoms of Mallet Finger
The main symptoms of mallet finger are drooping of the finger at the end of the finger. There may also be associated pain and swelling around the area.
Impact of Mallet Finger
The injury may rupture the extensor tendon without an associated fracture of the bone, called a soft tissue mallet injury. In other times, the tendon may rupture and fracture a small or large piece of bone, called a bony mallet injury.
The diagnosis of mallet finger involves a physical examination and obtaining an X-ray of the injured finger. In rare cases, other imaging techniques such as a MRI scan may be ordered.
Untreated Mallet Finger
If left untreated, mallet finger can develop into a finger joint deformity referred to as a swan neck deformity.
Treatment for Mallet Finger
Generally, Mallet Finger can be treated non-surgically using specially designed splints that immobilize the finger and promote natural healing. Healing may take 8-12 weeks.