Question:I injured my index finger in a volleyball game. The doctor called it a Type I mallet injury. I've been given a splint to wear for 10 weeks. What happens if I don't use it?
Mallet finger is an injury to the tip of the finger. With a Type I injury, the extensor tendon is partially ruptured. The extensor tendon is what helps you to extend your finger fully.
The goal in treating a mallet finger is to restore full motion with equal flexion and extension to the same finger on the other hand. With an extensor tendon injury there's a chance you won't get your full extension back. The tip of the finger remains slightly bent making it look like the head of a mallet. The fingertip won't straighten fully. This is called an extensor lag.
Splinting Type I injuries usually works very well. The splint is worn day and night for 10 days. Then the patient is advised to keep wearing it just at night for another two weeks. If there's no deformity at the end of this time, then the splint can be discontinued. If extensor lag and a mallet deformity persist, then the splint is worn for another eight weeks.
There are several problems that can occur if you don't wear the splint. For one thing, the finger won't be straight. Some people are concerned about the way the deformity looks. Secondly, the finger can get caught when you're trying to slip your hand into a pocket. Third, it's harder to use the hand for some tasks with the tip of a finger slightly bent.
There are several different types of splints available. If one doesn't work or isn't comfortable, ask your doctor about trying a different one. For the best results, wear the splint as recommended.Harrison G. Tuttle, MD, et al. Tendon Avulsion Injuries of the Distal Phalanx. In Clinical Orthopaedics and Related Research. April 2006. No. 445. Pp. 157-168.
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