Why does my finger look funny?

Quite often when you knock your finger on a hard surface or the tip of it gets hit by a ball and then suddenly… we cannot straighten the tip of it! Why does this happen? What evil forces of the world are working against your finger?

The answer is simple really, you might have sustained a mallet finger injury. A mallet finger injury occurs when the tip of the finger is forced into flexion at the same time as when the muscle that extends it is activated. The result being a floppy fingertip. Mallet fingers are commonly seen in ball sport injuries such as cricket, basketball and netball but can also occur by falling or knocking your hand on a hard surface.

Mallet fingers can be classified in two ways, bony or soft tissue.


A bony mallet injury means you have a fracture of the bone at the tip of the finger, this can usually be confirmed by X-ray examination. A soft mallet injury occurs when the tendon that attaches to the tip of the finger and helps to straighten it is ruptured. These can be harder to diagnose and can easily be missed.

For both injuries, a specialised hand therapist can guide you through a structured splinting regime and instruct you on safe return to sport and activities. Depending on the type of injury you have sustained, healing may take up to 6-8weeks of immobilisation and then a short period of rehabilitation for a few weeks. You might be recommended to review with a surgeon if there is a delay in commencement of immobilisation following injury or otherwise indicated.

Early intervention is key for good outcomes with a mallet finger injury. Delays in appropriate care can lead to permanent loss of range and functional impairments. If you suspect you have a mallet finger, call a hand therapist now!

Brukner, Peter, Karim Khan, and Peter Brukner. Brukner & Khan’s Clinical Sports Medicine. Sydney: McGraw-Hill, 2012.