Baseball Season is Here – and so is “Mallet Finger”

Its hard to believe that the 2024 NCAA Division I baseball season began a few weeks ago. And the Tigers Opening Day is almost here! On March 28, 2024 Skubal will be the starter when the Tigers open their season at the White Sox. High school athletes across the Metro Detroit area will also be starting baseball and softball games this month! But with the excitement of every baseball season, some injuries are also inevitable.

Baseball Finger – or Mallet Finger – is a common sports injury that occurs to the fingertip that is caused by a sharp blow, or a jamming injury. In this condition, the tendon that is responsible for straightening the tip of the finger is damaged, and you may not be able to straighten your finger. As this injury can often occur when catching a baseball, it has earned the name of  baseball finger or mallet finger.

Symptoms of Baseball or Mallet Finger

Pain and swelling at the end of the finger are the most common symptoms, coupled with an inability to straighten the finger completely. This could become a permanent condition if treatment is not sought early enough.

Other Causes of Mallet Finger

While baseball is commonly associated with mallet finger injuries due to the repetitive impact and forceful extension of the fingertip during catching or pitching, there are several other causes of mallet finger that can occur in various activities and accidents. Some additional causes include:

Sports Injuries: Apart from baseball, sports such as basketball, volleyball, and football can also lead to mallet finger injuries, particularly when the fingertip is forcefully struck by a ball or another player’s hand.

Accidental Trauma: Mallet finger injuries can occur as a result of accidental trauma, such as jamming the fingertip against a hard surface or getting it caught in a door or drawer.

Occupational Hazards: Certain occupations that involve manual labor or repetitive hand movements, such as construction work, manufacturing, or woodworking, can increase the risk of mallet finger injuries due to the potential for sudden impacts or excessive force on the fingertips.

Household Accidents: Activities such as cooking, cleaning, or DIY projects around the house can also pose a risk of mallet finger injuries if the fingertip is accidentally struck or bent forcefully.

Falls: Falls onto an outstretched hand or a direct impact to the fingertip during a fall can result in mallet finger injuries, especially if the force is sufficient to cause damage to the extensor tendon or fracture the distal phalanx bone.

Overall, mallet finger injuries can occur in a variety of situations and activities where there is potential for sudden force or impact to the fingertip, highlighting the importance of taking precautions and seeking prompt medical attention if an injury occurs.

Diagnosing Baseball or Mallet Finger

A doctor who specializes in the hands, wrists and shoulders like Dr. Uzma Rehman is the best person to diagnose this condition. The doctor will examine your finger and review your symptoms. An X-ray may be taken to rule out the presence of a fracture. Frequently, the tendon will pull off a piece of the bone to which it is attached at the end of your finger. Most injuries of this nature can be healed through rehabilitation. But if a large fracture of the bone has occurred, or the joint is misaligned, surgical repair may be required.

Treatment for Baseball or Mallet Finger

Assuming there is no fracture, the finger will need to be straightened and placed into a split to keep it stabilized. This splint may need to be worn up to 6 weeks. This will allow the tendon to reattach to the finger or, if a piece of bone has been pulled off, to allow the bone to heal. The finger will most likely be swollen, so ice packs should be applied for 20 to 30 minutes 3 to 4 times per day, or until the pain is gone. Your hand should be elevated on a pillow when you are lying down, or placed on the back of a chair or couch if you are sitting. Most injuries of this nature can be healed through rehabilitation.

Physical Therapy for Mallet Finger

Physical therapy plays a crucial role in the rapid and full recovery from mallet finger injuries by facilitating the healing process, restoring mobility and strength, and preventing long-term complications. A tailored physical therapy program with our certified Macomb County hand therapists can include a range of exercises and modalities aimed at improving finger range of motion, reducing stiffness, and strengthening the surrounding muscles and tendons.

Through targeted exercises and hands-on techniques, our skilled hand physical therapists can help patients regain flexibility and function in the affected finger, promoting optimal healing and preventing joint stiffness or contractures.

Additionally, physical therapy can provide education on proper joint protection techniques and ergonomic strategies to minimize strain on the injured finger during daily activities. By actively participating in a comprehensive physical therapy program, patients can achieve a faster and more complete recovery from mallet finger injuries, enabling them to return to their normal activities with confidence and reduced risk of complications.

When can I return to my sport or activity?

In general, the longer you have symptoms before you begin rehabilitation, the longer the time period of recovery. Returning to your sport or activity will be determined by your rate of healing, rather than a set number of days or weeks. If you return too soon you may worsen the injury, which could lead to permanent damage. Each person recovers at a different rate. The goal of rehabilitation is to get you back to full function as soon as it is safe for you to do so.

It is important for you to wear the splint for your mallet finger for at least 6 weeks after the injury. If you wear the splint as the doctor has recommended, you may be able to return to your activities sooner. Not wearing the splint could lead to permanent damage and deformity to the finger.

Baseball & Mallet Finger Doctor | Macomb County

If you or someone you know is experiencing pain, stiffness, numbness or tingling in the hands, wrist, arm or shoulder, seek a consultation from Dr. Rehman. She will provide a full evaluation and workup to determine the exact cause of the problem, and her team of hand therapists will implement a comprehensive program to help you attain full recovery, range of motion and strength in the affected area. Contact Dr. Rehman today for more information.

Macomb County Baseball & Mallet Finger Doctor: 586-532-0803