Bouncing Back from Turf Toe
True or False? Turf toe only affects those who play team sports on artificial turf. The answer is a resounding—false! Anyone can be affected by this toe sprain injury and have to deal with the pain, limping, and loss of activity that occurs with it.
It is more common if you are involved in athletics, though. In fact, it is the third most common injury (after knee and ankle problems) that causes loss of playing time for college athletes. Let’s take a look at how it happens and what to do if it happens to you.
Big Toe Anatomy
Turf toe is usually described as a sprain of the first big toe joint, where the metatarsal (foot bone) and the phalanx (toe bone) meet. These bones work with the sesamoid bones, tendons, plantar plate, and other tissues to make each step possible. The softer tissues in the joint can become damaged if the toe is forced into the wrong position and hyper-extended. This can happen instantly by pushing off or landing hard on the toe, or occur after the ligaments have been weakened by repetitive trauma over time. A toe is susceptible if it is constantly being jammed while running, turning, or jumping – especially on harder surfaces like artificial turf or a dance stage (yes, dancers are prime candidates for turf toe, as well).
How Bad Is the Sprain?
There are three grades of sprain: Grade 1, where the soft tissue has been stretched, resulting in pain at a specific spot and a little swelling; Grade 2, where the tissue is partially torn, there is more swelling and bruising, and it may be painful to move the toe; and Grade 3, in which the tissue is completely torn, there is extensive pain, swelling and bruising, and it is very difficult to move your big toe.
What to Do for a Sprained Toe
As with many injuries, the first line of defense is to rest. Don’t play through the pain: stop the activity that caused the injury. Keep weight off of it, and use an ice pack to reduce swelling and relieve the pain. To further decrease swelling, you can wrap the area with an ace bandage and elevate your foot above your heart.
If the pain and swelling persist, it’s time to consult Dr. Howard Schaengold at The Plateau Foot & Ankle Clinic to have the toe evaluated. He will want to know exactly what you were doing at the time, so jot down notes if you must, to remember the action that caused the injury. He will manipulate the toe to learn which motions cause the pain, and may use X-rays or an MRI to see exactly what is happening in the area.
Treatment options will depend on the grade of the sprain and may include interventions from continuing the R.I.C.E. treatment, to taping toes together, to wearing a walking boot or cast to immobilize the toe and allow it to heal. After it is healed, physical therapy can help restore range of motion, strength, and flexibility to the joint to prevent future problems.
Don’t let turf toe limit your life. The Plateau Foot & Ankle Clinic offers great sports medicine care in the Sammamish, Bellevue, Issaquah, and Redmond communities. Call us at (425) 868-3338, and put yourself on the path to complete healing. Expert treatment and a little patience now will be rewarded by fewer problems down the road!