A mallet finger results from either a laceration or a direct blow to the tip of the finger resulting in an injury to the extensor tendon and an inability to straighten the finger.
Patients with a mallet finger typically have pain on the back of the last joint of the finger, and difficulty extending the tip. This results in a fingertip that is bent slightly toward the palm and cannot be straightened without assistance.
Tendons in your body attach muscles to bones. When a muscle contracts, a tendon transmits a force from the muscle, across a joint, to the bone causing it to move. In your forearm you have muscles that are attached to tendons, which then attach to the tips of your fingers. On the palm side you have flexor tendons that help you make a fist. On the back of your hand you have extensor tendons which straighten your fingers. Mallet finger results from a disruption in the last portion of the extensor tendon of the finger or thumb. This results in an inability to straighten the last joint. Usually the disruption is of the tendon, but occasionally the tendon may pull off a small piece of bone.
Treatment for a mallet finger is usually non-operative. The affected finger is splinted full time for 6 weeks, and then at night for 6 more weeks. Occasionally we will operate on a mallet finger if the patient cannot tolerate the full time splint, but the timeframe for recovery is approximately the same.
Full recovery after a mallet finger is usually about 3 months, but most patients are back to most activities by 6 weeks.