Even if you don’t play a sport, you can still sustain an injury called mallet thumb. Besides catching a baseball or basketball with the tip of your thumb, banging it against a counter or shutting it in a drawer can also cause mallet thumb. While mallet finger is considered to be one of the most common finger injuries—a mallet thumb is not as common. So how do you know if you have a mallet thumb?
Basically mallet thumb is when the tendon that straightens the end of your thumb becomes detached from your bone, preventing your thumb from fully extending. With mallet thumb, the end joint closest to your fingernail droops down. It bends, but it won’t straighten. You can push your thumb tip up straight but it will not stay straight without support.
The good news is that, if dealt with early, most mallet thumbs can be treated without surgery. It’s very important to seek treatment early because the longer your thumb remains bent, the harder it is to treat.
The standard treatment for a mallet thumb is to straighten it and keep it straight, full-time in a splint for about 4-6 weeks. There are different types of splints that can be used to keep your thumb straight and allow it to heal. The most common splints are:
- sticky tape and a wooden stick splint
- aluminum and foam strip splint
- plastic tube splint
While these splints can be effective in keeping your thumb straight, there are a couple of downfalls when using them. One is that tape must be used to keep them in place, making it difficult to use and wash your hands. The aluminum and plastic tube splints also cover the end of your thumb making it very difficult to pick things up or hold onto things.
A second downfall, is that tape and also the foam from the aluminum splint doesn’t allow your skin to breathe. This often results in the skin beneath the splint becoming macerated – white and damp as though your thumb was in water too long. If your thumb stays damp and doesn’t get enough air your skin can break down over time.
Using a splint that holds the end of your thumb straight and doesn’t require tape may be a better solution. The Oval-8 Finger Splint is one option. It holds your thumb straight and allows it to heal without limiting your ability to use your hand. The lightweight design can be comfortably worn day and night throughout the 4-6 weeks of treatment. The Oval-8® does not require tape or straps and the open design keeps your skin dry and even allows you to shower and wash your hands.
In some cases, your health care provider may recommend surgery or pinning the joint to hold the bone together until your mallet thumb heals. Though mallet thumb is not a common finger injury, if left untreated, it can severely effect your ability to use your hands. It should never be ignored. Early treatment is the best option for healing and to be able to fully use your thumb.Like what you’ve read? Click here to subscribe to the blog!
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