A mallet finger is caused by either an extensor tendon rupture or a small fracture at the last joint on the finger. It causes the complete loss of the ability to fully straighten the digit. Mallet finger can affect any digit in the hand and it’s a very common football injury at all levels of the sport. In fact, mallet finger is thought to be the most common closed tendon injury in athletes.

An Example of Mallet Finger: Russell Wilson’s Hand Injury

Wilson also suffered a comminuted fracture-dislocation of the proximal interphalangeal joint. This is an injury to the finger’s middle joint and could be more worrisome than the mallet finger depending on how severe the fracture is. Without intimate knowledge of the fracture, it’s hard to estimate Wilson’s recovery time. So, for the purpose of this blog, we’re going to cover the mallet finger and leave proximal interphalangeal (PIP) joint injuries for a separate post.

How Did Russel Wilson Get a Mallet Finger Injury?

It was nearly impossible to miss Russell Wilson’s hand injury during the Thursday night football game last week. Our surgeons at Proliance Hand, Wrist and Elbow Physicians could tell immediately that Wilson was suffering and the most likely diagnosis was a mallet finger based on the images of his hand shown during the game.

Unfortunately, the injury involves the middle finger on his throwing hand. This is the last part of the hand to touch the ball and thus is one of the most critical parts of release. The middle finger determines timing, dictates spin and defines a quarterback’s touch on the football. So, it was no surprise he was struggling to continue the game on Thursday night. And while it’s painful to think the Seahawks will be playing without Wilson, his surgeon is hopeful he will return to active duty later this season.

What Possible Treatments Are There For Mallet Finger?

Mallet finger is often treated conservatively with a splint. And there are many different splints available to immobilize the finger. Most surgeons recommend at least 6 weeks of splinting with the digit fully straight followed by another 6 weeks of night time splinting and splinting during sports. In some cases however, it is necessary to have surgery to internally immobilize the joint and fracture fragments. For this reason, it’s good to have a hand specialist evaluate the injury to determine the best course of treatment.

In Russell Wilson’s case, he was evaluated by  Dr. Steven Shin, a Southern California-based orthopedic hand surgeon at Cedars-Sinai Kerlan-Jobe Institute. Dr. Shin determined Wilson’s injury made him a good candidate for surgery.

Wilson’s Hand Injury Recovery Prognosis

Dr. Shin is renowned for treating high-level athletes including Drew Brees, Mike Trout and Stephen Curry. Under Dr. Shin’s care, Drew Brees recovered from a torn thumb ligament in six weeks.

According to the Seattle Seahawks website, Dr. Steven Shin said the following about Wilson’s surgery and outcome:

“Russell Wilson injured his right middle finger during last night’s game versus the Rams. He sustained two injuries to the finger: an extensor tendon rupture (mallet finger) and a comminuted fracture-dislocation of the proximal interphalangeal joint. He had successful surgery today in Los Angeles by hand specialist Dr. Steven Shin at the Cedars-Sinai Kerlan- Jobe Surgery Center to repair both injuries. He will start therapy this weekend and it is highly anticipated that he will return to play later this season.”

“Based on what I saw today, I am fully confident Russell will return to the NFL this season and play at the same world-class level that fans have come to expect of one of the game’s very best quarterbacks.”

When Should I See a Doctor About Mallet Finger?

A consultation with Proliance Hand, Wrist and Elbow Physicians can help determine the best treatment for your mallet finger. Our highly trained occupational therapists are onsite at our Kirkland and Bellevue offices. This allows you to see both your hand surgeon and therapist in a single visit. Whether it is time for a cast, or a therapy program, or even a surgical correction, our staff can help. Contact us to make an appointment at any of our five convenient Eastside locations.


 Disclaimer: Russell Wilson is not a patient of Proliance Hand, Wrist and Elbow Physicians. The views expressed in this blog are those of our surgeons based on the information available to the public.

Samuel E. Galle, M.D.About the Author:

Samuel E. Galle, M.D. is a board-certified orthopedic surgeon with subspecialty fellowship training in conditions of the hand and upper extremity. He has published numerous peer-reviewed articles and surgical technique videos. He lives in Kirkland, WA with his wife, two kids and one especially spoiled Cavalier King Charles Spaniel.