Almost all of us have jarred a finger whether it be from weekend sport or an accident such as getting a finger caught in a closing door.
A more serious type of finger injury that we commonly see in the clinic is a mallet finger. Mallet finger, or drop finger occurs when a ball or object makes direct contact with the fingertip causing a forceful bend at the most distal joint. The tendon that straightens the finger either ruptures, or detaches from it’s attachment point on the bone, due to the high force. Most commonly this is seen in sports such as AFL, netball, basketball or other accidents involving the hand.
The main resulting symptom, in addition to pain, is an inability for us to fully straighten or extend the finger. This leaves a clear and visible bend at the most distal joint. In some cases, there will be associated bruising and swelling.
When a patient presents to us with mallet finger, physiotherapy plays a crucial role in the management and rehabilitation. The primary goal is to restore normal range of motion and function of the joint, and hand. It is vital for the finger to be splinted correctly, and quickly, otherwise the bend in the finger can remain forever. Avoidance of, or incorrect splinting leads to poor movement of the finger and can affect gripping and other tasks, also causing weakness and potential osteoarthritis of the joint.
Treatment of mallet finger
This depends on the nature of the injury (ie whether the bone is injured in addition to the tendon). Your specialist, or physio here at Motus will often design an extension splint that will hold the finger straight. It is vital this is done early, and remains on for approximately 6-8 weeks. Passing on education to our clients is the most important factor, so you understand the importance of correct splint use and compliance, and which activities to avoid during this time.
Range of motion
Once the ‘protection phase’, where the splint is worn full time, is completed, we guide you through a progressive program to restore the movement the splint prevented, while the injured site was healing. The main aim is to regain, and maintain the extension range of motion in the finger joint that was originally lost. This is vital for optimal hand, finger and gripping function.
As the available range of motion at the joint increases, we will also prescribe strengthening exercises to restore the ability to move the joint well, and withstand the weight of the objects we grip. Most of the time, we will incorporate resistance products such as bands, balls and weights to replicate the demands in your daily life.
Returning to function
The final phase of recovery involves the exposure of the injured finger to the usual work-related tasks, and sports that you managed prior to the injury. We make the call to clear you for heavier and faster tasks once you’ve regained full range of motion and strength, and the finger is pain free with the specific movements and activities involved in your goals. This will extend through your successful return to sport, to ensure proper technique, high level of performance, and decreased risk of re-injury.
Through the rehab process from Mallet finger, we’re here to support you, and can communicate closely with your involved specialist when required.
Please note, each treatment plan is individualised dependant on the severity of injury and the specifics of your activities. Contact us at Motus to chat to our friendly team about treating your finger injury so you can live unaffected and pain free