As chair of the Department of Orthopaedic Surgery and head of hand and upper extremity surgery with the University of Virginia Health System, Dr. Bobby Chhabra draws on diverse experience in treating sports injuries. Dr. Bobby Chhabra also applies this expertise as a faculty member in the university’s sports medicine fellowship program, primary care sports medicine program, and hand fellowship programs.
Mallet finger is an injury commonly seen by hand and sports medicine specialists. Known colloquially as “baseball finger,” it is a regular occurrence in athletes whose sports of choice involve throwing or catching balls, although it can occur when any hard object hits the tip of a finger and forces it past its normal range of motion.
Anatomically, mallet finger results when the force of impact ruptures the extensor tendon in the finger. This causes swelling and bruising as well as pain in the affected area. The injury also causes the fingertip to become stuck in a drooped position, the patient being rendered unable to move it normally.
Most cases of mallet finger must receive medical treatment, as the injured digit may become permanently disfigured. Treatment is particularly important for children, in whom the injury may involve cartilage that plays a key role in bone growth.
Mild to moderate cases of mallet finger are often treatable with splinting, which is usually required for approximately eight weeks. If the injury involves bone fractures, fragmentation, or a subluxed joint, surgical repair may be necessary. This requires the introduction of surgical pins, which hold the bone in place to facilitate healing.