What is 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. This injury is common amongst athletes who perform on artificial turf, thus its name ‘Turf Toe’. Running or jumping on this surface has a higher impact on the toe as shoes grip harder on the artificial surface, causing the body weight to advance forward and bending the toe upward.
Often this is found more in athletes with poor supporting footwear or flexible shoes which don’t offer sufficient stability. As a result the ligament stretches and the joint can potentially damage.
This injury can also occur due to excessive toe movements such as stretching and compressing and in particular hyperextension and hyperflexion which involves bending the toe too far forward or backward which the ligament in the big toe is unable to support. This is common amongst dancers and gymnasts who use a wide range of foot movements.
Turf Toe Symptoms
When turf toe occurs, the patient usually suffers a sudden pain in the big toe at the point of injury when the impact or collision has occurred. Patients often feel a ‘popping’ sensation at the instant the injury occurs. Turf toe which is sustained as a result of overuse or excessive bending of the toe, the patient often experiences pain and a restriction in their normal range of movement after the activity is halted and often swelling and bruising occurs in the area. This pain is usually accelerated in activities where pressure is put on the toe such as walking and running.
Turf Toe Diagnosis
Turf toe is usually diagnosed by a doctor or physiotherapist after examination without the need for any further testing, however X-rays may be used in some cases to rule out a fracture and in more severe cases an MRI or CT scan will be used to rule out any further complications.
Turf Toe Treatment
In order to treat this injury, allowing adequate time for the toe to heal is vital so to not damage the tissue any further and to stay away from any activity that could aggravate the toe or causes any pain or discomfort to the area. Continuing any strenuous activity or resuming sport will not only hinder the healing process, it could lead to further damage to the soft tissue. The RICE method (Rest, Ice, Compression, Elevate) should be adopted immediately. Applying ice to the injury is very important as will reduce any swelling and offer cooling pain relief to the injury. Anti-Inflammatory medications may be taken to relive the pain of the injury and also to minimize any swelling.
Strengthening exercises may also be advised by a physiotherapist to keep the area strong and ensure flexibility once the injury had healed. This should not be done without professional advice as a patient can run the risk of aggravating the area and increase the healing period.
Taping and strapping methods may be used to relieve pressure put on the injury during the rehabilitation stages and within the first few weeks of returning to normal activity.
Swapping flexible, less supporting shoes for ones which will provide more stability or investing in specially designed inserts from your doctor or podietrist will prevent turf toe reoccurring in the future.