Baseball Finger (Mallet Finger) FAQs
What is Baseball or Mallet Finger? It is an injury that occurs to the fingertip that is caused by a sharp blow, or a jamming injury, to the fingertip. 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 is sometimes called baseball finger or mallet finger.
What are the 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.
How is Baseball or Mallet Finger diagnosed?
A doctor who specializes in the hands, wrists and shoulders 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.
How is Baseball or Mallet Finger treated?
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.
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.
How can I prevent Baseball or Mallet Finger?
Usually the direct blow that causes mallet finger is accidental, so often these types of injuries are not preventable.
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.