A mallet finger is when there is an abnormality of the finger caused by damage to the extensor tendon. This injury is usually sustained when a ball hits the top of the finger or thumb, injuring the extensor tendon which is responsible for straightening the finger. As this injury is often seen in baseball players, it is also known as baseball finger.
As mentioned above, a mallet finger is due to a sudden impact acting on the finger, causing the tendon to tear. This is often suffered in high tempo sports such as basketball, baseball and soccer in the case of a goalkeeper. If the attempt to catch the ball is missed, it will hit the finger and an immediate sharp pain followed by numbness will be felt. Tendons are fibrous connective tissues responsible for connecting our muscles to the bones and a mallet finger is resulted from either the tearing of the tendon or an avulsion fracture of the finger.
The most common symptom is the inability to straighten the injured finger on its own without external help. The finger may be swollen, bruised and turned purplish. In cases where the ball hit the fingernails, there may be blood clots beneath the nail which will need to be drained a couple of days later.
What happens to you?
Following a baseball finger injury, you will need to wear a protective splint for a period of time which is dependent on the extent of your injury. In minor cases involving only the stretching of the tendon, the finger will heal within 1.5 months. In an attempt to speed up the recovery process, you can apply ice to it whenever possible while keeping your hand elevated above your heart.
In more serious cases where the tendon is torn, a recovery duration of roughly 2 months is needed followed by another 1 month of wearing the splint only when you sleep. In cases where splinting does not help, surgery will be required to reattach the tendon. Following surgery, a lengthy recovery period is required for your finger to regain its original functions. The surgeon will attach small screws and pins connecting the bone fragments and these will dissolve away in a few months’ time on its own.
You can slowly start to resume your normal activity after a few months and finger flex exercises should be performed to help regain the flexibility and mobility of the finger joint.