Don’t Catch the Ball

fingerWe have all done it on the tennis court… during practice or warm-up, the ball is flying towards us and we catch it with our non-racquet hand. Sometimes nothing bad happens; but sometimes we jam a finger. This just happened to a tennis buddy; and he got “Mallet Finger.”

Mallet Finger

According to, Commonly an athletic injury, mallet finger occurs when the outermost joint of the finger is injured. With mallet finger, the tendon on the back of the finger (not the palm side) is separated from the muscles it connects.

Mallet Finger Symptoms

People with mallet finger may delay seeking medical attention — even though they may be in a great deal of pain — simply because they can still use their hand.

Symptoms may include the following:
• Pain, tenderness, and swelling at the outermost joint immediately after the injury
• Swelling and redness soon after the injury
• Inability to completely extend the finger while still being able to move it with help

Nonsurgical Treatment

According to the American Society of Surgery of the Hand (yes, there is such an organization)…

The majority of mallet finger injuries can be treated without surgery. Ice should be applied immediately and the hand should be elevated (fingers toward the ceiling.) Medical attention should be sought within a week after injury. It is especially important to seek immediate attention if there is blood beneath the nail or if the nail is detached. This may be a sign of a nail bed laceration or an open (compound) fracture.

There are many different types of splints/casts for mallet fingers. The goal is to keep the fingertip straight until the tendon heals. Most of the time, a splint will be worn full-time for eight weeks. Over the next three to four weeks, most patients gradually begin to wear the splint less frequently. The finger usually regains acceptable function and appearance with this treatment. Nevertheless, it is not unusual to lack some extension at the conclusion of treatment.

So DON’T CATCH THE BALL. Others with a similar injury??

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3 thoughts on “Don’t Catch the Ball

  1. George – I did the same thing last week, only don’t think I have any tendon damage, just popped/dislocated pinky out if joint. Back to 90% mobility after a week. Gotta stop that habit!

    Jeff, yes, a tough habit to break! george

  2. George,

    Actually mallet fingers are very common in baseball when the throwing hand goes into the glove too soon and the ball hits the tip of the finger. Although surgical repair is often done, it is my experience that the surgical result is not much better then just splinting. Either way, there will be lack of complete extension, which may not look good cosmetically but is still very functional.

    Larry, thanks for your professional input. george

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