By Alecia Vaughn, OTR/L, CHT, Occupational Therapist, Certified Hand Therapist
Mallet finger is a tear or rupture of the extensor tendon that straightens the very tip of each finger is a common injury seen in hand therapy. This injury is common in athletes when the finger is hit with a ball. It can also happen during simple daily activities, such as getting dressed or making the bed.
Has your hand ever slipped while trying to place the super tight sheet on your mattress? Sometimes mallet finger can happen during something as quick and familiar as that! What happens to the extensor tendon? When the tip of the finger is bent beyond its limit, the excess strain can damage this relatively delicate tendon. When you have this injury, you will notice that the finger droops down, and the tip of your finger is stuck in a bent position. It is unable to straighten unless helped by another hand.
The treatment for this is to be fitted for a custom splint that keeps the tip of your finger fully straight and even into slight hyperextension. The fingertip must stay straight 100% of the time for 6-8 weeks. If at any point it bends then your time in the splint will restart, even if gravity is the culprit.
It is important to seek out treatment and get into a custom splint as soon as possible, otherwise you may have to wear the splint for a longer period of time. Custom splinting is preferred over AlumaFoam prefabricated splints because the AlumaFoam does not provide adequate support to ensure proper healing. Although the splint may not completely resolve the bend in your finger, the splint significantly reduces the deformity allowing for greater functional use of your hand. Delaying treatment may result in a permanent droop in your finger.