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Mallet Finger: Care Instructions


Mallet finger is a bent fingertip. It is caused by a fractured bone or torn tendon at the base of the finger joint near the fingertip. The injury can happen when a finger is bent with force, such as when trying to catch a ball and the fingertip is struck by the ball. It also is called baseball finger or drop finger.

Treatment includes wearing a splint for several weeks to keep the finger straight. Surgery may be needed if pieces of bone break off during the injury or if treatment with the splint does not work. Usually only a splint is needed.

It is very important that you wear and take care of the splint exactly as your doctor tells you to so that your finger heals properly and is no longer bent. Wearing a splint may interfere with your normal activities. Ask for help with daily tasks if you need it.

Follow-up care is a key part of your treatment and safety. Be sure to make and go to all appointments, and call your doctor or nurse advice line (811 in most provinces and territories) if you are having problems. It's also a good idea to know your test results and keep a list of the medicines you take.

How can you care for yourself at home?

  • If your doctor put a splint on your finger, wear the splint exactly as directed. Do not remove it until your doctor says that you can.
  • Keep your hand raised above the level of your heart as much as you can. This will help reduce swelling.
  • Put ice or a cold pack on your finger for 10 to 20 minutes at a time. Try to do this every 1 to 2 hours for the next 3 days (when you are awake) or until the swelling goes down. Put a thin cloth between the ice and your skin. Keep the splint dry.
  • Take pain medicines exactly as directed.
    • If the doctor gave you a prescription medicine for pain, take it as prescribed.
    • If you are not taking a prescription pain medicine, ask your doctor if you can take an over-the-counter medicine.

When should you call for help?

Call your doctor or nurse advice line now or seek immediate medical care if:

  • Your finger is cool or pale or changes colour.
  • Your pain gets much worse.
  • You have tingling or numbness in your finger.
  • You have signs of infection. These include:
    • Increased pain, swelling, warmth, or redness.
    • Red streaks leading from the area.
    • Pus draining from the area.
    • Swollen lymph nodes in the armpits.
    • A fever.

Watch closely for changes in your health, and be sure to contact your doctor or nurse advice line if:

  • You have more pain and swelling than your doctor told you to expect.

Where can you learn more?

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Care instructions adapted under license by your healthcare professional. If you have questions about a medical condition or this instruction, always ask your healthcare professional. Healthwise, Incorporated disclaims any warranty or liability for your use of this information.