I spent this past Sunday like many Americans, watching a football game with my family at a local restaurant. As the referees determined yardage and the players fought to gain it, my attention flew to the actual playing field, the grass beneath their shoes. Before the introduction of hybrid, genetically improved grasses, the field was made of AstroTurf. As I glanced around the room during the game, I could not help but wonder how many former football players had suffered from a condition called turf toe. And it just so happens to be Atlantic Foot and Ankle Specialists’ Foot Problem of the Month, so get ready to be conditioned for some knowledge!
Turf toe is a hyperextension injury of the big toe joint where it is bent forcefully upwards. It occurs in people who play contact sports on artificial surfaces, which is how turf toe acquired its name. Today, it typically occurs in athletes who have increased range of motion in the ankle and or wear flexible shoes. The forceful upwards motion of the toe causes ligaments under the toe to be stretched and damage usually occurs to the surfaces of the bones making up the big toe joint.
Symptoms of turf toe include swelling and pain at the big toe joint with tenderness upon stretching the joint upwards. The athlete can initiate treatment by icing the injury, apply a compression bandage, and or wear a shoe with a firm sole that will not allow bending. The next step is to contact a podiatrist with experience in sports medicine. The medical professional will obtain either X-rays or an ultrasound to rule out fracture. A variety of treatments can then be implemented.
Treatments usually include taping/strapping the toe and or orthotics to prevent movement, anti-inflammatory medications (NSAIDS, such as Tylenol) , and beginning a rehabilitation and strengthening program. The recovery period usually takes about 4 weeks, depending on the extent of injury. If the athlete returns to activity prematurely, they may develop hallux limitus, which is arthritis at the big toe joint.
If you or a friend are suffering from turf toe, please contact Atlantic Foot and Ankle Specialists at 912-355-4557. And please feel free to visit our Facebook page and remember to “like” Atlantic Foot and Ankle Specialists.