Turf Toe

By Theresa Adams ATC

Turf Toe

A “Turf Toe” injury is a ligament sprain of the main joint of the great toe. It happens when the toe is forcibly bent up into hyperextension. For example, this can be when pushing off into a sprint and having the toe get stuck flat on the ground. Sprains of the big toe joint became especially prevalent in American football players after artificial turf became more common on playing fields – hence the term “turf toe.”

The Turf Is the Cause

Artificial turf is a harder surface than grass. It does not have much “give” when forces are placed on it. These injuries can vary in severity — from stretching of the soft tissue to partial tearing, and even total dislocation of the MTP joint. To help them plan treatment for turf toe, doctors grade the injuries from 1 to 3 – mild to severe.

Ice bag for the R.I.C.E Protocol for Injuries

Ice Bag

The RICE protocol is recommended for this type of soft tissue injury: Rest, ice, compression, and elevation. Taping the big toe to the smaller toes will restrict motion. In addition, over-the-counter anti-inflammatory medications, such as ibuprofen, can help provide symptom relief. These more severe injuries are period of immobilization for several weeks is the treatment plan.  The athlete may wear a walking boot or be put in a cast that keeps the big toe in a partially pointed down position.

An orthotic can certainly help recover or prevent turf toe.  Often the orthotic is a very rigid support in the shoe which prevents painful movements of the toe.

Physical therapy may be helpful, and people should start as soon as symptoms allow. Specific exercises will help to stretch and strengthen the big toe. Early joint movement is essential for reducing or preventing joint stiffness. Depending upon the severity of your injury, seek a doctor’s care immediately or if your symptoms persist. Laser therapy has shown excellent results in the treatment of turf toe at JOI Rehab. Before your appointment, try to identify exactly what happened when the injury occurred. This information can help your doctor to diagnose your injury and plan your treatment.

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