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Mallet Finger vs Jersey Finger

If you have questions about an injury to your hand or fingers, you may need to seek out advice from an orthopedic specialist. 

Mallet finger and jersey finger are both tendon injuries to the end of any finger.  They differ in their mechanism and in the tendon that is involved.  The appearance of the injury will be different but they will both be painful.

The second through fifth fingers are each made up of three phalanges (bones) and two interphalangeal joints.  The thumb has two phalanges and one interphalangeal.  Tendons attach to points of the bones allowing the fingers to flex and extend.

Mallet finger occurs to the extensor tendons as a result of being hit by an object that forces the distal interphalangeal joint to flex farther than the tendon allows.  The tendon can either rupture or avulse off of the bone. Symptoms of mallet finger include pain, swelling and an inability to actively extend the end of the finger.  The finger will appear bent but can be manually straightened. Treatment involves a lengthy period of splinting to keep the finger straight.  Rarely, mallet finger may be treated surgically.

Jersey finger occurs to the flexor tendon after the distal interphalangeal joint is forced into hyperextension. Often, an athlete will sustain jersey finger while getting the finger caught in an opponent’s jersey.  The flexor tendon will either rupture or avulse off the bone. The end of the finger will point up but can be manually straightened. The joint will most likely be painful and swollen. Surgical treatment is often necessary to repair the tendon.

Both injuries should be evaluated and treated by a qualified orthopedic specializing in hand injuries. With proper treatment, athletes will be able to return to full participation.

Need to see a specialist about your mallet or jersey finger? MUSC Sports Medicine can help.