Is Turf Toe
keeping you on the sidelines?

Even if you are not an athlete, your big toe joint pain could be because of turf toe. What is this condition? How does it differ from other conditions of the big toe? Learn more about this condition and what can be done for it.

What is Turf Toe?

This condition of the big toe was named because of the incidence of this injury with athletic events that occur on hard surfaces such as artificial turf. Although most commonly associated with football, it can happen when playing other sports or simply from trauma.

Turf toe occurs when the big toe is significantly bent upward. For example, in football, the cleats can grip the surface or turf as the body moves forward, causing the toe to bend upward. It can also occur when the foot is planted and someone falls on the back of the leg, forcing the knee toward the turf as the toe is forced upward. This hyperextension of the toe causes a sprain of the ligament supporting the bottom or plantar aspect of the toe. It is also referred to as a first MTP (metatarsaphalangeal) sprain.

turf toe

A sprain of the MTP joint of the big toe can be mild (a first degree sprain) or severe (a third degree sprain). With a third degree sprain the ligament is completely torn. In rare cases a fracture can occur.

Typical Symptoms of an MTP Sprain

As this injury is caused by trauma, immediate pain around the bottom of the big toe is the first symptom. Because pain is reproduced by the toe moving upward, pushing off the foot while walking will be limited. The sprain can also result in swelling, warmth, and redness of the big toe.

Typical MTP Sprain Treatment

As funny as it may sound, to an athlete, a MTP sprain of the big toe can mean being on the sidelines for quite some time. This injury will affect walking, stair climbing, jumping, and sprinting. The severity of the sprain will impact how quickly you can begin walking and moving the big toe. Sprains can take six to eight weeks to heal and even longer to get back to athletic activities.

When walking is very painful, obtaining an x-ray to check for a possible fracture is warranted. And if you find you are walking with a limp, crutches should be utilized to help the sprain heal. While the sprain heals, the use of a shoe with a stiff sole will be helpful in minimizing toe motion while walking. Taping is also helpful in minimizing motion.

turf toe taping

As with any acute joint trauma the use of ice therapy , compression, and elevation will help to control joint inflammation. The use of anti-inflammatory medication can also be helpful in reducing pain and swelling (consult your doctor regarding medication).

Physical Therapy

Normal mobility of the big toe is essential to being able to walk normally. A big toe that is too flexible or too stiff can lead to chronic pain. Seeking assistance from a physical therapist is recommended to guide you along the process of healing.

Restoring normal range of motion and strength are the corner stones of obtaining a successful result. A simple exercise you can do at home is crunching a towel under your arch by moving your toes to grab and pull the towel.

toe towel crunches

A turf toe injury can keep you off your feet for longer then you would like. Take care to follow treatment recommendations to minimize the affects of this toe joint injury.

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