The hand therapists at Action Rehab are experienced in the assessment and treatment of mallet finger injuries. With a reputation endorsed by sporting organisations like the Melbourne Football Club, Action Rehab is the smart choice for treating your mallet finger.
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Mallet finger is the result of a fracture or rupture of the extensor tendon at the tip of the finger, preventing the tip joint from straightening. It is usually caused by forced bending of the tip or a laceration. Mallet finger is a really common condition that can happen when making the bed or after a ball hitting it on the end. This causes the fingertip to droop, sometimes confused as a dislocation. Mallet Finger can be difficult to treat and if treated poorly can lead to complications such as a swan neck deformity and arthritis.
Most people know when they have a Mallet Finger because they have a droopy or “hammer” tip. The most important thing about diagnosing and assessing a Mallet Finger is finding out if there is a “break” or “fracture”.
Many people and many General Practitioners worry when there is a small break or fracture at the tip of the finger where the tendon has pulled itself off. Ironically patients with a fracture have a better chance of healing than those who have a Mallet Finger injury without a fracture! This is because bone heals well to bone and a boney Mallet Finger will heal more quickly.
In a case where there is no bone injury then expert care of the Hand Therapist at Action Rehab is even more important. Treating a tendon Mallet Finger injury requires precise splinting, education and care in order to prevent a Mallet Finger from becoming a swan neck deformity. Therapists at Action Rehab are experts in reading X-rays and can refer you for an X-ray when required, so we can check the joint following a Mallet Finger injury.
Call us on 1300 762 227 for an appointment, or schedule an appointment online by clicking the button below.
View the video below to learn more about the differences between the types of mallets and how Action Rehab treat these sorts of injuries. As explained by Action Rehab founder Ben Cunningham.
Following thorough assessment of the injury and the X-ray, Mallet Finger is treated in a water resistant brace that can breathe but keeps the finger in the correct position.
Mallet finger injuries with a small fracture or break can be treated in a small custom-made fingertip brace for up to 6 weeks. When the Mallet Finger has a fracture, careful consideration must be given to the X-ray for Mallet Finger so as not to displace or dislocate the joint while splinting. It is really important to have a custom fit brace and not a “stack splint” or an aluminium splint as these can cause many problems and complications.
In a tendon Mallet Finger where there is no bone break or fracture then very careful consideration must be given to the splinting. In order to help the tendon heal, a splint with the middle joint slightly bent and the tip joint held straight (anti swan neck splint) will be fabricated to help the tendon Mallet Finger injury heal. This splint may be worn for up to 8 weeks however treatment will vary.
See below for a patient who came to Action Rehab with a tendon Mallet Finger who we treated with a light-weight, custom fit anti-swan neck splint.
This breathable and waterproof custom-made fingertip brace by Action Rehab is fitted to a mallet finger injury which has a small fracture or break.
At Action Rehab, we fabricate custom mallet anti-swan neck splints that are water resistant, breathable and lightweight.
See below the incorrect and correct treatment for a patient who has tendon mallet finger.
Fig 1: Incorrect Treatment: A stack splint is being incorrectly used to treat a tendon mallet finger injury. It does not support the DIP and PIP joints of the finger, leading to greater injury complications.
Fig 2: Correct Treatment: An anti-swan neck splint is being correctly used to treat a tendon mallet finger injury. It shortens the oblique retinaculum ligament stretch allowing the terminal extensor tendon to move back up the finger for proper healing.
In most cases Mallet Finger does not require surgery and in some cases surgery can actually make the Mallet Finger worse. In order to decide whether a Mallet Finger injury should have surgery, the Hand Therapist at Action Rehab will check your X-ray. If there is subluxation of the joint (dislocation), then in those cases surgery may be required. This takes careful examination and can only be done by your experienced Action Rehab Hand Therapist or Physiotherapist. If surgery is required the Action Rehab therapist will discuss with your General Practitioner and arrange a surgical opinion from one of experienced hand surgery colleagues.
A subluxation of the finger joint (dislocation) may require surgery.
Mallet Finger is complex and can lead to serious complications and frustrations if not treated appropriately.
Choosing the right-hand Therapist starts with them being able to read your X-rays and then fabricate the right brace for you. The therapists at Action Rehab are experienced in assessing and reading X-rays.
Our therapists do regular GP and Emergency Doctor training and can advise on the most appropriate action for your Mallet Finger treatment.
Known for providing treatment for mallet finger and other hand, wrist, elbow and shoulder injuries Action Rehab are the hand therapists that Melbourne trusts.
How common is mallet finger?
A. Mallet Finger is the most common injury seen at Action Rehab. Mallet Finger is a common sports related injury and the experts at Action Rehab specialise in sports trauma.
How is mallet finger caused?
A. Mallet finger is caused by a ball or a force to the end of the finger while a person is trying to straighten it.
How long does it take to recover?
A. Mallet finger takes about 6-8 weeks to recover but depending on the type of mallet (fracture or not) it may take longer. Weirdly Mallet Finger injuries without a fracture take longer to heal
Will it require surgery?
A. No generally Mallet Finger does not require surgery and in some cases surgery can make it worse. Action Rehab therapists can assess the X-ray and can advise if your Mallet Finger injury needs surgery.
Is it a serious condition?
A. Mallet finger can be a serious injury especially if it is poorly treated in an “off the shelf splint”. You should always see a Hand Therapist if you have a Mallet Finger injury because they are much more complicated than you think.
Will it go away if left untreated?
A. No it will not go away. It will get worse. You will get a Swan Neck deformity and possibly arthritis if you do not treat it. Treatment is always required with Mallet Finger.
This information has been verified by Action Rehab director Ben Cunningham.
Ben Cunningham is currently the Hand Therapist at Melbourne Football Club (AFL) and the director of Action Rehab. Ben has over 20 years’ experience providing hand and upper limb therapy, including working in the United Kingdom at the Queen Victoria Hospital and as the senior clinician at the Alfred Hospital in Melbourne.