Turf toe is simply a sprain involving the main joint of the big toe. This occurs once the toe is forcibly bent up into hyperextension especially when pushing off into a sprint or having the toe stuck flat on the ground.
A sprain involving the big toe joint is quite common among those who play football in artificial turf. It is important to note that artificial turf is harder than grass and does not absorb shock effectively. Even though this injury is linked with football, turf toe can occur in other activities and sports.
What is turf toe?
Turf toe involves damage to the soft tissues in the plantar complex such as the collateral ligament or plantar plate. The injury can vary in severity that can be a minor tear or full dislocation of the MTP joint.
Turf toe typically occurs in any activity or sport where the forefoot is fixed on the ground, heel is raised and a force pushes the big toe into hyperextension. Remember that these injuries occur among football players who use artificial turf. The artificial surfaces are harder and do not absorb shock well. Additionally, the shoes that are designed for artificial surfaces are softer and flexible which provides agility, but reduced stability in the forefoot.
First aid care
The RICE method is highly effective in most sports-related injuries including turf toe when they are initially sustained. If you want to learn more about this treatment technique, read here.
- The individual must take a break from the activity that caused the injury and avoid putting any weight on the foot.
- Apply an ice pack for 20 minutes at a time throughout the day. Just make sure that the ice pack is covered with a clean cloth or towel.
- The individual should use an elastic compression bandage to minimize swelling.
- When resting, the leg should be propped on cushions or pillows so that it is higher than the level of the heart to reduce the swelling.
Over-the-counter anti-inflammatory medications can be given to provide relief to the symptoms. Depending on the severity of the turf toe, a doctor must be consulted if the symptoms persist.
Diagnosing turf toe
The doctor will ask about the overall health of the individual as well as the symptoms experienced and how the injury occurred. During the physical examination, the doctor will assess for any bruising, swelling and range of motion of the MTP joint. The doctor will bend the toe up, move it up and down and side to side to check for instability that indicates a tear in the plantar complex. Remember that assessing the range of motion in the toe can cause a lot of pain. If required, the doctor will inject a numbing medication in the area before the test. The imaging tests performed to help with the diagnosis includes an X-ray and MRI.