Tendons in the fingers allow us to bend and straighten our digits, contributing to dexterity. Most of the muscles that provide this force are located back in the forearm to minimise bulk in the hand and fingers, thus the tendons are often quite long. The fingers are, however, quite susceptible to injury, especially when playing competitive ball sports.
What is Mallet Finger?
The term mallet finger refers to the appearance of the finger after rupture of the extensor tendon (tendon that straightens the finger) at the end of your finger. This can occur either as a pure rupture of the tendon or the tendon can avulse (pull away) a fragment of bone with it.
Treatment for Mallet Finger
Most mallet injuries can be very successfully managed without surgery. This decision will depend on a number of factors but one of the most important is how long it has been between the time of your injury and the time of assessment – a delay in diagnosis can significantly affect your outcome.
Non-operative management generally consists of splinting the distal finger joint in full extension for a period of time. Usually this will be strict 24/7 splinting for the first 6 weeks, followed by a further 6 weeks of night-time splinting before the splints can be discarded altogether.
If surgery is performed this may involve reattachment of the avulsed tendon back to the bone or fixation of the bony fragment that has been pulled away with the tendon. Either way, following surgery you will need to protect this repair and will be referred to see a hand therapist for provision of a custom-made finger splint and a detailed rehabilitation program.
It can take up to three or four months to feel like you have completely recovered from this kind of injury.