Mallet finger is a condition characterized by the inability to fully extend or straighten the fingertip. It occurs when the extensor tendon, which controls the finger's ability to straighten, is damaged or ruptured. This often happens due to a sudden forceful impact on the fingertip, such as during sports activities or accidents.
The most common causes of mallet finger include:
• Sports injuries: Mallet finger frequently occurs during sports activities, particularly those involving direct contact or ball-handling, such as basketball, baseball, or volleyball.
• Accidental trauma: Accidentally jamming or forcefully bending the fingertip can lead to tendon damage and result in mallet finger.
The primary symptom of mallet finger is the inability to fully extend or straighten the affected fingertip. Other common symptoms include:
• Pain and tenderness at the back of the finger.
• Swelling around the fingertip.
• Difficulty in gripping or holding objects.
• Visible deformity, such as a drooping fingertip.
A healthcare professional, such as a physiotherapist or a hand specialist, can diagnose mallet finger through a physical examination and a discussion of your symptoms and injury history. They may also request imaging tests, such as an X-ray, to evaluate the extent of the injury and rule out any fractures.
Treatment for mallet finger typically involves immobilizing the fingertip to allow the damaged tendon to heal. This is often achieved through the use of splints or orthotic devices. The splint holds the fingertip in an extended position, promoting proper healing. Other treatment options may include:
• Non-surgical approach: For minor mallet finger injuries, wearing a splint continuously for six to eight weeks can be sufficient.
• Surgical intervention: In severe cases where the bone fragment is large or the joint is misaligned, surgery may be required to reposition and stabilize the finger.
Once the initial healing phase is complete, rehabilitation exercises are crucial for restoring finger strength, flexibility, and function. Some useful exercises for mallet finger recovery include:
• Passive range of motion exercises: Gently moving the affected finger through its full range of motion using the opposite hand or with the help of a therapist.
• Active extension exercises: Gradually attempting to extend the fingertip against resistance or with the assistance of rubber bands or therapy putty.
• Grip strengthening exercises: Squeezing a stress ball or using hand grippers to improve grip strength.