Mallet Finger (Baseball Finger) | Orthopaedics | Loyola Medicine

Mallet Finger (Baseball Finger)

Overview and Facts about Mallet Finger (Baseball Finger)

Mallet finger is a common injury. It often occurs when an object, such as a baseball, strikes the tip of the finger or thumb. This type of sudden impact can damage the tendon that extends along the back of the finger or thumb.

Such injuries can separate the tendon from the muscles that control movement in the fingers. In some cases, the tendon may rupture entirely. Injuries that cause mallet finger can also cause fractures in the bones of the hand.

Signs and Symptoms of Mallet Finger (Baseball Finger)

People suffering from mallet finger may find that their fingertip droops. They may be unable to fully straighten their finger or thumb.

Other symptoms of mallet finger include:

  • Pain
  • Tenderness
  • Redness
  • Swelling

There is sometimes visible bruising. In some cases, blood may collect under the fingernail or the nail might detach.

Causes and Risk Factors of Mallet Finger (Baseball Finger)

Mallet finger often results from a sports injury. Injury typically occurs when a person's finger is struck by a ball, bat or other piece of sports equipment. Some people develop mallet finger after jamming their finger in a door or crushing it with a hammer.

Athletes are at a high risk of suffering these types of injuries. Construction workers, kitchen staff and anyone who regularly carries or handles heavy objects may also be at risk.

Tests and Diagnosis of Mallet Finger (Baseball Finger)

Mallet finger can usually be diagnosed during a physical examination. The most common symptom, an inability to extend the finger, is easily noticeable. Nonetheless, your doctor may order additional tests, such as X-rays. These tests can help reveal fractures or other damage that may have resulted from the original injury.

An X-ray also allows your doctor to see whether the tendon has completely separated from the bone or if the joints in your finger have been pushed out of alignment. These complications may require special treatment.

Treatment and Care for Mallet Finger (Baseball Finger)

Mallet finger may be treated with a splint or cast. These keep your finger straight while the tendon heals. In most cases, a splint or cast is worn continuously for eight weeks, with possibly three to four weeks of wearing the split part-time after that. During that time, exercises to improve the range of motion in your finger joints may be required.

In some cases, surgery may be necessary, depending on the orthopedic conditions affecting the tendon or bone. A surgeon might use pins, screws or wires to repair the bone and realign damaged joints, or they might perform a tendon graft. In this procedure, an orthopedic surgeon takes tendon tissue from another part of your body and attaches it to the tendon in your finger.