crsheader Index Spanish version Illustration Rehabilitation Exercises Thumbnail image of: Mallet Finger (Baseball Finger): Illustration Mallet Finger (Baseball Finger): Teen Version

What is mallet finger?

Mallet finger, also known as baseball finger, is an injury to the tendon that straightens the tip of the finger. You may be unable to straighten your finger.

How does it occur?

There is usually a jamming injury to the tip of the finger.

What are the symptoms?

You may have pain and swelling at the tip of the finger. You may be unable to straighten the tip of your finger. If the injury is old or if you do not seek medical care soon enough, you may permanently lose the ability to straighten your finger.

How is it diagnosed?

Your healthcare provider will examine your finger and review your symptoms. An X-ray may be taken to see if there is also a fracture. Commonly, the tendon will pull off a piece of the bone to which it is attached at the end of your finger.

How is it treated?

To treat this condition:

  • Your finger will be straightened and placed in a splint for about 6 weeks to allow the tendon to reattach to the finger bone or, if a piece of bone has been pulled off, to allow the bone to heal. It is important to keep this splint on to permit healing.
  • Put an ice pack, gel pack, or package of frozen vegetables, wrapped in a cloth on the finger every 3 to 4 hours, for up to 20 minutes at a time.
  • Raise your hand on a pillow when you sit or lie down.
  • Take an anti-inflammatory such as ibuprofen, or other medicine as directed by your provider. Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory medicines (NSAIDs) may cause stomach bleeding and other problems. These risks increase with age. Read the label and take as directed. Unless recommended by your healthcare provider, do not take for more than 10 days.

How long will the effects last?

It is important that you wear a splint for your mallet finger for at least 6 weeks after your injury. If you wear your splint as your healthcare provider has recommended you may return to your activities immediately. NOT wearing your splint can lead to permanent injury or deformity of your finger.

When can I return to my normal activities?

Everyone recovers from an injury at a different rate. Return to your activities depends on how soon your finger recovers, not by how many days or weeks it has been since your injury. The goal is to return to your normal activities as soon as is safely possible. If you return too soon you may worsen your injury. Ask your healthcare provider when you should start rehabilitation exercises and when you can return to normal activities.

How can I prevent mallet finger?

Mallet finger is caused by a direct blow to the end of the finger during an accident that is usually not preventable.

Written by Pierre Rouzier, MD, for RelayHealth. Published by RelayHealth.
Last modified: 2011-02-08
Last reviewed: 2010-06-21 This content is reviewed periodically and is subject to change as new health information becomes available. The information is intended to inform and educate and is not a replacement for medical evaluation, advice, diagnosis or treatment by a healthcare professional. References
Pediatric Advisor 2011.4 Index
© 2011 RelayHealth and/or its affiliates. All rights reserved.