By David Ricci, OTR/L, CHT
Mallet finger is caused by damage to the extensor tendon, the thin tendon that allows you to straighten your finger. When an object such as a basketball hits the tip of the finger, the extensor tendon can be overstretched, or it can avulse from the bone and pull away a piece of bone. The finger swells, cannot be straightened, and droops at the tip. This causes the mallet-shaped appearance.
Diagnosis is usually confirmed through X-ray. A splint that extends to the tip of the finger is usually worn for eight weeks, followed by therapy to regain motion. Many mallet finger injuries do not require surgery, but those with large fracture fragments or misalignment of the joint may require surgical intervention. Surgery usually involves pins, wires or small screws to realign the joint and repair the fracture. An untreated mallet finger could lead to arthritis or to a permanent deformity of the involved finger. Make a wise choice and seek early medical advice for the treatment of a mallet finger.