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Mallet Finger

Mallet Finger

Mallet finger is an injury at the tip of your finger or thumb that causes the tip to bend.

What is mallet finger?

The tendon that links your thumb or finger bone to your muscle becomes strained or torn, which causes your finger to become inflamed, painful and hooked.

Your ring finger, smallest and longest fingers of your dominant hand are the most likely places to get mallet finger.

What are the symptoms of a mallet finger?

Symptoms include:

  • Pain in the affected finger or thumb
  • Sagging and not being able to straighten finger / thumb tip
  • Swelling
  • Tenderness and bruising
  • Blood underneath the nail / nail getting detached, in some cases

What causes mallet finger?

Mallet finger happens when you receive a direct blow to your fingers. It is most likely to be caused by:

  • A sports injury – especially if you play sports like football, volleyball or basketball
  • Closing your finger on a door – children are more likely to receive the injury this way
  • Minor trauma: making a bed or putting on socks – if you’re an elderly woman, you’re more at risk of getting mallet finger from these more minor types of blows to the finger

How is mallet finger diagnosed?

Go to see your doctor if you have the above symptoms. Your doctor will immediately be able to tell if you have mallet finger, as you will have the drooping finger or thumb tip associated with it.

In some instances, your doctor may take an x-ray, ultrasound or MRI scan to get a better idea of how significant the injury to your bone and tendon is.

How is mallet finger treated?

In most cases, if there isn’t a significant fracture, your doctor will place a splint on the affected finger or thumb, to straighten the finger. You’ll need to wear this for around 6-8 weeks.

Your doctor may also recommend the following, to help you heal:

  • Over-the-counter medications – such as ibuprofen or naproxen
  • Rest

If your mallet finger doesn’t heal from using the splint (which is rare), you may need surgery. You will be advised on the surgery that is best for you.

If you’re unsure what treatment you should go for, or the above treatments don’t work for you, our team of expert specialists are here to help.

This content has been checked and approved by

Mr Brian Cohen  ›

Mr Lawton is a consultant plastic reconstructive and hand surgeon at King Edward VII’s Hospital with special interests and expertise in extremity reconstruction after trauma, hand surgery and peripheral nerve injury.

Find your specialist in mallet finger at King Edward VII's Hospital

If you suspect you have mallet finger and you’re seeking an expert opinion, you can find the UK’s leading hand specialists here at King Edward VII’s Hospital. Our consultants are hand-picked for you, making it easy to access the best possible care.

Mr Brian Cohen  ›
Special interests include:
Scaphoid fractures (+ 18) more
Miss Sonja Cerovac  ›
Special interests include:
Wrist Pain (+ 14) more
Mr Graham Lawton  ›
Special interests include:
Mallet finger (+ 5) more

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