• Team Joseph

What Is Mallet Finger?


All our fingers have an extensor tendon on the back of the hand that straightens your finger. When that tendon is injured, it can become separated from the muscles the tendon connects. This is what’s known as mallet finger, and - if left untreated - it can cause permanent deformity or damage the finger cartilage.


What Causes Mallet Finger?

Mallet finger is commonly seen in our Vail Valley and Summit County ball sport athletes. This is because mallet finger is typically caused when an object (such as a baseball) forcefully impacts the tip of the finger. Additionally, mallet finger can also be the result of a crushing injury or a severe laceration.


Symptoms of mallet finger include:

  • Pain

  • Tenderness

  • Swelling

  • Bruising

  • Redness

  • Inability to extend the finger

Although mallet finger can cause intense pain, people will often delay seeking orthopaedic treatment because they can still use their hand. As with any major injury to the hand, it’s important to see your orthopaedic physician immediately to prevent further problems down the line.


How Do You Fix Mallet Finger?

The majority of mallet finger injuries can be treated without surgery. Dr. Joseph and his team at Vail-Summit Orthopaedics & Neurosurgery will start by examining your finger and possibly ordering imaging tests to check the following:

  • The extent of the tendon rupture

  • If the bone is fractured

  • Whether the bone has been forced out of alignment

If the bone is undamaged, Dr. Joseph will likely recommend nonsurgical treatment, which can include:

  • Splitting

  • Icing

  • Non-prescription medications to control the swelling and pain

  • Temporary pin insertion to hold the joint straight

  • Physical Therapy

If there is damage to the finger joint or if the tendon requires a graft, Dr. Joseph may recommend surgical intervention. Surgery for mallet finger usually involves inserting hardware into the fingertip to help keep the joint in place until the tendon is healed. This hardware could be:

  • Pin

  • Screw

  • Wire

  • Plate

The hardware is removed after the finger has healed. In rare cases, a suture is needed to repair damaged bone.


If a tendon graft is necessary, Dr. Joseph harvests the tendon tissue from another part of your body to replace the ruptured extensor tendon.


Typical recovery time for a mallet finger injury is eight weeks.


Treatment for Mallet Finger in Eagle and Summit County


Don’t wait to seek treatment! If you’re experiencing pain, stiffness, or swelling to a finger, contact Team Joseph today. Practicing in Eagle and Summit County, Colorado, Dr. Joseph is often able to take same or next-day appointments.


Schedule your consultation today by calling (970) 476-7220 or request an appointment with our online platform.


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