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A guide to Turf Toe

Turf toe occurs as a result of excessive bending of the big toe causing a sprain to the ligaments in the base of the toe in the ball of the foot. So, what exactly are the main causes of turf toe and how can you best treat and prevent the injury. This injury is common amongst athletes who perform on artificial turf, which inspired the name ‘turf toe’. Running and jumping on an artificial surface has a higher impact on the toe as shoes grip harder than on a regular surface, causing the body weight to advance forward and bend the toe upwards.

This injury is more commonly found in athletes with poor supporting footwear or flexible shoes which do not provide sufficient stability, resulting in the ligament stretching and potentially damaging the joint. Turf toe can also occur through excessive toe movements such as stretching and compressing, in particular hyperextension and hyperflexion which involves bending the toe too far either forward or backwards, which the ligament is unable to support. Dancers and gymnasts are often affected due to their array of feet movements. When turf toe occurs, the individual will suffer a sudden burst of pain in the big toe at the point of injury, a ‘popping’ sensation may also be felt as the collision or impact takes place. If the injury has been caused by overuse or excessive bending, the individual will often experience pain and a restriction to their normal range of movement and may begin to see bruising and swelling in the area. Turf toe is usually diagnosed by a doctor or a physiotherapist after a through examination, without needing further testing. However, a doctor may recommend an x-ray to rule out the possibility of a fracture. In severe cases a doctor may recommend an MRI or CT scan to rule out any further complications. In order to treat turf toe, following the RICE (Rest, Ice, Compression, Elevate) method within the first 72 hours will be beneficial to your recovery time. Any unnecessary staining activity to the toe should be avoided. Swapping flexible, less supportive shoes for a pair which provide stability, or even investing in specially designed inserts will help prevent turf toe reoccurring in the future. Finally, taping and strapping methods may be used to relive pressure and pain from the area, you can see our taping tutorial for turf toe below.