Mallet Finger

A mallet finger happens when the extensor tendon to the distal joint of the finger is stretched or torn. The extensor tendon is on the top of the finger. The distal joint is the last joint near the tip of the finger. This injury sometimes includes a small fracture of the finger.

  • Causes

    The most common cause of a mallet finger is when the tip of a finger is forcibly jammed into flexion or hit against a solid object. It occurs often in sports, such as baseball and basketball, when a ball hits the end of an extended finger. This injury causes the tendon on the back of the finger to be partially or completely torn. The tendon can no longer fully extend the distal joint.

  • Definition

    A mallet finger happens when the extensor tendon to the distal joint of the finger is stretched or torn. The extensor tendon is on the top of the finger. The distal joint is the last joint near the tip of the finger. This injury sometimes includes a small fracture of the finger.

    Bones, Tendons, and Muscles of the Hand
    Hand anatomy
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  • Diagnosis

    Your doctor may take an x-ray of the injured finger to look for a small fracture extending into the joint. This fracture helps diagnose a mallet finger.

  • Prevention

    The only way to prevent mallet finger is to avoid injury to your finger.

  • Risk Factors

    A risk factor is something that increases your chance of getting a disease or condition. The primary risk factor for developing mallet finger is playing a sport or activity that exposes the finger to injury. For example, baseball and basketball.

  • Symptoms

    Symptoms of mallet finger include:

    • Pain and tenderness at the distal finger joint after injury
    • Swelling and redness around the distal joint after the injury
    • Inability to completely extend the finger

  • Treatment

    Treatment for mallet finger includes:

    With or without surgery, mallet fingers often result in some minor drooping of the distal finger joint. However, you should have close to normal function and be able to play sports.