What is Baseball Finger?

Mary McMahon
Mary McMahon

Baseball finger, also known as mallet finger, is a finger injury which involves damage to the extensor tendons used to straighten the finger. In a patient with baseball finger, the finger is bent and cannot be straightened. The classic cause of this injury is a “jam,” in which the finger is forcibly bent by being slammed into something, or by having something such as a baseball slam into it. This condition is very treatable.

A person wearing a splint for baseball finger.
A person wearing a splint for baseball finger.

At the time of injury, people usually experience significant pain in the jammed finger. Sometimes baseball finger is accompanied by a fracture, which may be closed or open. It is not uncommon for the tip of the finger to swell and bruise, and sometimes people lose their nails or develop blotches of blood under the nail. The involved finger can be hot and tender, and moving it is usually painful.

Baseball players are often prone to finger injuries.
Baseball players are often prone to finger injuries.

In many cases, baseball finger can be treated with ice, elevation, and splinting. Ice and elevation keep the swelling down, which will increase patient comfort while the finger heals. Splinting the finger will support healing and reduce strain on the finger. It is important that patients use the splint as directed; even though it can be annoying and sometimes painful, the splint should not be removed until it is safe to do so, or healing may be impaired.

There are also surgical management options available. Surgery may be recommended when the finger is broken, is not responding to treatment, or appears to be severely injured. A hand and wrist specialist can perform the surgery to repair the injury. Splinting is usually needed after surgery to keep the finger immobile while it heals.

It can take several weeks for the finger to fully heal, and during the healing phase, people should take care to avoid reinjury of the damaged finger. The finger can also be vulnerable to damage in the future, and it's important to gently stretch and flex the finger after healing to redevelop strength.

Often, people can treat a baseball finger at home with ice and splinting. However, if the finger is extremely painful or does not respond to treatment, medical attention should be sought. It is possible that the finger might be fractured or that more aggressive treatment might be needed. It is especially important to see a doctor if signs of infection set in, or if feeling is lost in the tip of the finger.

In severe cases, surgery may be needed to correct baseball finger.
In severe cases, surgery may be needed to correct baseball finger.
Mary McMahon
Mary McMahon

Ever since she began contributing to the site several years ago, Mary has embraced the exciting challenge of being a wiseGEEK researcher and writer. Mary has a liberal arts degree from Goddard College and spends her free time reading, cooking, and exploring the great outdoors.

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Discussion Comments

donasmrs

@ddljohn-- I think a baseball or mallet finger is more serious than a jammed or slammed finger. I've suffered from this multiple times on both of my pinkies. I was wearing a splint for many weeks, around eight or nine weeks every time it occurred. The bad part is that both of my pinkies are a little disfigured now. They healed eventually (I had to be extremely careful), but they don't look right.

The funny part is that sometimes, I developed a mallet finger while playing sports and other times, I developed it from a harmless activity like making the bed! My pinky fingers must be very fragile.

serenesurface

@ddljohn-- That's not surprising. A mallet finger can happen while doing many different activities. People who play instruments are likely to develop it too. I have a friend who developed a mallet finger while playing the cello.

ddljohn

Baseball finger can also occur in basketball, it happened to me several times. The basketball slammed into my finger. It's so painful but thankfully, I've always been able to manage at home with an ice pack and a splint. The hardest part about a finger injury is not playing until it heals which takes a few weeks. I've actually played with a jammed finger before, but it's not a very good idea.

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