What is Mallett Finger?

One of the most common finger injuries that we commonly see in a hand therapy practice is “mallet finger.”
What is this? It is when the terminal extensor, the tendon that extends the end of your finger- ruptures.  Often there is an avulsion fracture associated with this injury as the torn tendon pulls a small piece of bone from the base of the distal phalanx where it was attached.
How does this occur..in our busy world, this injury often happens when we are rushing to accomplish a task.
The means of occurrence are quite endless.
I have seen this injury as a result of the following activities:

-scrubbing the floor of a boat
-stuffing paper back in shoes at the store
– contact with a basketball or baseball with the end of the finger
-pulling up socks or tight jeans
-scrubbing a rug
-tucking in sheets when making a bed
The possibilities are endless.
Symptoms of this injury include the inability to straighten the end of the finger (drop finger), redness, swelling, tenderness and if an avulsion fracture is involved- bruising. Usually pain is minimal.
Though this is a relatively simple injury, the most challenging aspect of it is finding a health care professional who will treat it most effectively.
Surgery is seldom needed for this injury but optimal splinting is essential.  The distal joint must be held in a few degrees of hyperextension constantly for six to eight weeks to allow scar tissue to repair the ruptured tendon.
For the past fifteen years, I have fabricated an oval 8 splint made from 1/4 inch aqua-tubes, a low temperature thermoplastic product. I tell my patients often that this little custom fabricated splint is the reason that I was hired at Hawthorn Medical back in 2007.  Hawthorn Medical Hand Surgeon (one of the best hand surgeons that I have ever been blessed to worked with)-Dr Mi Haisman, was quite impressed by the custom oval 8 as she  visited me personally at the clinic where I was employed at the time to see what kind of splints that I could make. Our hand team has been successfully “curing” mallet deformities since that time with this simple, convenient to wear splint. That was the beginning of a long working relationship that continues to this day.
Feel free to contact Deb Fraine OT at my private practice at the Mattapoisett Wellness Center if you notice symptoms of this simple yet complex finger injury.
Deb Fraine Occupational Therapy, LLC
76 County Road
Mattapoisett, MA 02739
508.951.0908
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