• Mallet Finger

    (Baseball Finger)


    A mallet finger happens when the extensor tendon to the distal joint of the finger is stretched or torn. The extensor tendon is on the top of the finger. The distal joint is the last joint near the tip of the finger. This injury sometimes includes a small fracture of the finger.
    Bones, Tendons, and Muscles of the Hand
    Hand anatomy
    Copyright © Nucleus Medical Media, Inc.


    The most common cause of a mallet finger is when the tip of a finger is forcibly jammed into flexion or hit against a solid object. It occurs often in sports, such as baseball and basketball, when a ball hits the end of an extended finger. This injury causes the tendon on the back of the finger to be partially or completely torn. The tendon can no longer fully extend the distal joint.

    Risk Factors

    A risk factor is something that increases your chance of getting a disease or condition. The primary risk factor for developing mallet finger is playing a sport or activity that exposes the finger to injury.


    Symptoms of mallet finger include:
    • Pain and tenderness at the distal finger joint after injury
    • Swelling and redness around the distal joint after the injury
    • Inability to completely extend the finger


    Your doctor may take an x-ray of the injured finger to look for a small fracture extending into the joint. This fracture helps diagnose a mallet finger.


    Treatment for mallet finger includes:


    For the first one to two days, an ice pack should be applied 15-20 minutes at a time every three to four hours to reduce swelling and tenderness. Place a towel between the ice pack and your skin.

    Pain Medication

    Your doctor may recommend a prescription or an over-the-counter pain medication.


    A splint is usually applied to the outermost joint of the finger. It keeps the finger extended and prevents it from moving during healing. The splint should be worn for 4-6 weeks. If you move the injured distal joint, you have to restart the immobilization time period. Following instructions for splint use is important for this injury.

    Finger Exercises

    You may need physiotherapy after the splint is removed. These exercises will help improve strength, flexion, and extension of the injured finger.


    In some cases, surgery may be required. This may be the case if there is a total tear of the extensor tendon. It may also be needed if there is a fracture extending into the joint where the tendon has pulled a piece of bone loose.
    With or without surgery, mallet fingers often result in some minor drooping of the distal finger joint. However, you should have close to normal function and be able to play sports.
    With or without surgery, mallet fingers often result in some minor drooping of the distal finger joint. However, you should have close to normal function and be able to play sports.


    The only way to prevent mallet finger is to avoid injury to your finger.


    American College of Sports Medicine http://www.acsm.org

    American Physical Therapy Association. http://www.apta.org


    Canadian Orthopaedic Association http://www.coa-aco.org

    Canadian Rheumatology Association http://www.rheum.ca


    Acute Finger Injuries: Part I. Tendons and Ligaments. American Family Physician. 2006 March 73(5):810-816.

    Anderson D. Mallet finger—management and compliance. Aust Fam Physician. 2011 Jan–Feb;40(1-2):47-48.

    Handoll HH, Vaghela MV. Interventions for treating mallet finger injuries. Cochrane Database Syst Rev. 2004;(3):CD004574.

    Mallet finger. EBSCO DynaMed website. Available at: http://www.ebscohost.com/dynamed. Updated May 6, 2014. Accessed August 18, 2014.

    Revision Information

  • LiveWell personal health survey

    How healthy are you really? Find out – free.Learn more

    It's time to stop guessing. If you want to make some changes but just aren't sure how, the free personal health survey from LiveWell is a great place to start.

  • HeartSHAPE Spotlight

    At risk for a heart attack? Learn more

    Fight heart disease and prevent heart attacks. HeartSHAPE® is a painless, non-invasive test that checks pictures of your heart for early-stage coronary disease.

  • Calories and Energy Needs

    Calorie NeedsLearn more

    How many calories do you need to eat each day to maintain your weight and fuel your physical activity? Enter a few of your stats into this calculator to find out.

  • Ideal Body Weight

    Ideal Body WeightLearn more

    Using body mass index as a reference, this calculator determines your ideal body weight range. All you need to do is enter your height.

  • Body Mass Index

    Body Mass IndexLearn more

    This tool considers your height and weight to assess your weight status.

  • Can we help answer your questions?

    Wellmont Nurse Connection is your resource for valuable health information any time, 24 hours a day, seven days a week. Speak to a Nurse any time, day or night, at (423) 723-6877 or toll-free at 1-877-230-NURSE.