There are tendons located in your hand and fingers that are designed to straighten those digits. These tendons, called extensors, connect to muscles on each end so that you can have full control of your hands. If the extensor tendon becomes damaged, then it cannot properly do its job and may even be torn away from the bone and muscle. If this happens, you could develop mallet finger, which is often also referred to as baseball finger.
The common manner in which this injury occurs is if the finger is straightening and then forcibly hit by an object such as a ball, a hammer, or something similar.
The main symptom of mallet finger is a dropping fingertip that cannot straighten out. There could be other symptoms associated with the injury, including pain, swelling, and bruising. If the finger bone was fractured at the same time, more swelling and pain will be evident.
Diagnosing the Condition
Generally, the doctor will look at the finger first and then order x-rays. When the tendon was damaged, it may have forced a fracture and pulled a piece of the finger bone loose. It will be important to diagnose this properly so that the bone can be repaired.
Treatment of Mallet Finger
There are essentially two paths for treatment of this condition: surgical and nonsurgical. If the damage was only partial and no bones were broken, then the tendon may heal on its own. To help this happen, you will need to wear a splint for at least eight weeks. This will allow the tendon time to heal without experiencing any stress.
In many cases, the finger will go back to normal after it has been given healing time. However, some patients find that they are never able to fully extend their finger after such an injury. To help avoid this, your doctor or surgeon will go over therapy exercises you can do to regain full use of your finger and fingertip.
If the tendon is completely torn, or if bone is broken, then surgery will be needed in order to repair the injury. Pins and wires may be used to repair the bone fragments and get everything aligned back in place. Surgery on the tendon may be used to stitch it together. Additionally, the tissues may need to be fused in order to regain use of the finger. Your surgeon will go over the options you have when you are diagnosed with mallet finger.
Mallet finger is often called baseball finger simply because it is a common injury associated with this sport. If a player attempts to catch a ball and the ball hits the back of outstretched fingers, then this could cause the injury. However, it is not limited to the diamond. There are numerous different ways someone could injure the extensor tendons in their hand. If you suffered an injury and you have trouble extending your finger or it droops, then it is important that you visit a doctor as soon as possible. In fact, to avoid further complications, it is best to see a doctor within a week of the injury.