Mallet finger, also known as baseball finger, is a common extensor tendon injury that occurs in the joint nearest the end of the finger (also called the distal interphalangeal joint or DIP joint). The extensor tendons are located just under the skin on the back of the hands. They extend to the fingertips and allow the straightening of the fingers and thumb. Mallet finger occurs when an extensor tendon is cut or separated from the bone, typically as the result of an object such as a ball forcefully hitting the end of the finger. The result is a drooping fingertip characterized by the inability to straighten the finger fully.
Symptoms and Diagnosis
Dr. Urbanosky will perform a thorough physical exam to determine if the injury is indeed mallet finger or baseball finger. Symptoms she will look for include:
• Pain near the fingertip in the DIP joint
• The deformity may not be immediately obvious after the injury, but inability to straighten the DIP joint at the fingertip is a telltale sign
• A fingertip that droops
• The inability to passively straighten the finger at the DIP joint suggests bony or soft tissue entrapment that will require surgery.
Dr. Urbanosky will take care to isolate the DIP joint during her evaluation to ensure the injury is to the extensor tendon, not the central slip, which would suggest Boutonniere Deformity [[link to Boutonniere Deformity section]] or any of a number of other finger injuries instead of mallet finger. An X-ray may also be required.
Prompt assessment by a skilled hand surgeon like Dr. Urbanosky is critical in treating mallet finger. Time truly is of the essence, as misdiagnosed or delayed treatment of mallet finger can cause permanent deformity and long-term dysfunction. Treatments vary for mallet finger based upon whether the extensor tendon is stretched, partially torn, completely ruptured or separated by a fracture (bone break).
Constant splinting to hold the DIP joint extended is the primary treatment for mallet finger. Typically splinting lasts for up to six weeks, but additional splinting may be required in specific circumstances. Sometimes a pin is placed through the bone as a form of internal splint to immobilize the joint in addition to the external splint. If the finger is bent even once during the healing process, the healing and splinting process must begin again.
If the tendon is cut, it will require stitches as well. Dr. Urbanosky may recommend surgery in cases when the bone is fractured.
If you think that you may be experiencing Mallet Finger, contact Dr. Leah Urbanosky for a consultation: (815) 462-3474.
Cysts & Tumors
De Quervain's Tenosynovitis
Carpal Tunnel Syndrome
Traumatic Hand Injuries
Joint Replacement of the Hand
Mallet Finger (Baseball Finger)
Swan Neck Deformity
UCL Tear of the Thumb
Osteoarthritis of the Thumb