Mallet Finger

You have an injury to your finger causing the tip of your finger to droop down. This makes your finger look like a small hammer or mallet. This is why it’s given this name. It is also called baseball finger. This injury happens when the tendon that holds the finger straight at the last joint tears. Sometimes a small break happens where this tendon attaches to the bone. This causes local pain, swelling, and bruising. This injury usually takes about 4 to 6 weeks to heal. This injury is often treated with a special finger splint called a stack splint. It holds the tendon in the correct position. But even with right treatment, it may not be possible to fully straighten that joint after the injury heals. After healing, the joint may be stiff but usually recovers flexibility over time.

Home care

  • Keep your arm elevated to reduce pain and swelling. When sitting or lying down, elevate your arm above the level of your heart. You can do this by placing your arm on a pillow that rests on your chest or on a pillow at your side. This is most important during the first 48 hours after the injury.

  • Put an ice pack over the injured area for 15 to 20 minutes every 3 to 6 hours. You should do this for the first 24 to 48 hours. You can make an ice pack by filling a plastic bag that seals at the top with ice cubes and then wrapping it with a thin towel. Be careful not to injure your skin with the ice treatments. Ice should never be applied directly to skin. Continue the use of ice packs for relief of pain and swelling as needed. After 48 hours, apply heat (warm shower or warm bath) for 15 to 20 minutes several times a day, or alternate ice and heat.

  • If a splint was applied, keep it in place for the time advised. If you remove it too soon, it will cause the position of the tendon to change and the finger joint will heal in a bent position.

  • You may use over-the-counter pain medicine to control pain, unless another pain medicine was prescribed. Talk with your healthcare provider before using these medicines if you have chronic liver or kidney disease or ever had a stomach ulcer or gastrointestinal bleeding.

  • Most people can return to normal activity while wearing the splint. Discuss any limitations with your healthcare provider.

Follow-up care

Follow up with your healthcare provider, or as advised.

If X-rays were taken, you will be told of any new findings that may affect your care. 

When to seek medical advice

Call your healthcare provider right away if any of the following occur:

  • Pain or swelling in the injured finger increases

  • The finger becomes red or warm 

  • Injured finger becomes cold, blue, numb, or tingly

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