Medical Q&As

Mallet finger - what is it?

My nephew has developed a "mallet finger". Can you tell me what can be done for him? Have you any details of the cause and can it be stopped from re-occurring, as this is the third time it has happened.

Mallet finger is commonly referred to as baseball finger in the USA. That term probably explains the condition more graphically because you can visualise a player trying to catch the baseball and stubbing the tip of his finger in the process. The stubbed finger is forcibly flexed towards the palm of the hand and ruptures the tendon that is attached to the tip of the finger. The damaged tendon runs along the back of the finger therefore the injured person is unable to extend the tip of their finger and that portion of the finger assumes a permanently flexed position. It can be a very painful injury. Treatment consists of splinting the finger in order to keep it in an extended position thereby allowing the injured tendon to heal. Splinting needs to be maintained for several weeks. Sometimes the injury may cause the tendon to pull away a small splinter of bone from the fingertip which is the reason why it is normal practice to X ray the injured finger. In that scenario surgery is usually necessary to correct the deformity and re-attach the splinter of bone. It is not clear from your question if your nephew has been treated by splinting or by surgery but since he has sustained the injury three times it might be necessary for him to have the injury surgically repaired.