By Theresa Adams ATC
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, such as 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.” Artificial turf is a harder surface than grass and 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.
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 most often treated with immobilization for several weeks. The athlete may wear a walking boot or be put in a cast that keeps the big toe in a partially pointed down position.
Physical therapy may be helpful and should be started 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. 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.