Discover how LA Orthopedic Group can treat Turf Toe injuries.
Turf toe, an injury commonly associated with athletes, occurs when the metatarsophalangeal joint is hyperextended resulting in a sprain of the nearby ligaments. The injury gets its name from the fact that it became prevalent among football players when artificial turf began to replace natural grass on playing fields.
- Usually occurs suddenly, such as during a tackle that causes a fall forward while toes are flat on the ground
- Can also be caused by repeated stress from pushing off of the big toe
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Causes of Turf Toe
A turf toe injury can occur in any activity that requires the heel of the foot to be raised while the toes and forefoot remain fixed on the ground while being subjected to a force that hyperextends the big toe. The condition frequently occurs in athletes who play on artificial turf because the artificial surface is harder and less shock absorbent than natural grass. It can also occur when the footwear worn does not provide enough support for the foot and allows the toes to extend beyond their natural limits.
First Aid for Turf Toe
As with any sprain, the initial first aid treatment for turf toe is rest and avoiding putting weight on the injured foot, applying ice packs several times a day for 20 minutes at a time, using compression wraps to reduce swelling, and keeping the injured foot elevated above the level of the heart. Ibuprofen and other over-the-counter anti-inflammatory medications can be used to alleviate pain and swelling. A doctor should then assess the injury to determine its severity.
Diagnosing Turf Toe
A physical exam will typically reveal bruising, swelling, and decreased range of motion in the metatarsophalangeal joint. Imaging tests, including X-rays, MRIs, and CTs, may be used to rule out fractures or other soft tissue injuries. A turf toe injury is graded on the extent of the damage. With a grade 1 injury, the plantar complex is stretched but intact resulting in tenderness and mild swelling. A grade 2 injury involves a partial tear of the plantar complex with more severe pain, bruising, and swelling that limits toe movement. A grade 3 injury occurs when the plantar complex is completely torn causing significant pain, swelling, bruising, and reduced movement.
Treating Turf Toe
Grade 1 turf toe injuries typically respond well to the RICE protocol of rest, ice, compression, and elevation. Orthotics or a stiff-soled shoe can provide additional stability and reduce the pressure on the injured joint. A grade 2 injury is usually treated with one to two weeks of immobilization with a walking boot. A grade 3 injury normally requires several weeks of immobilization with a cast or boot followed by physical therapy to stretch and strengthen the toe. Surgery is usually only necessary in cases of severe damage to the plantar complex or other structures surrounding the joint.