Turf Toe

“Turf toe” may not sound all that serious when you hear the term. “It’s just a toe injury—how bad can it be?”

But if you’ve ever experienced one, you know all to well that it can torpedo your season—especially if you play a sport or position that requires a lot of starts, stops, pivots, and cutting motions.

What Is Turf Toe?

Turf toe is a sprain of the big toe joint from excessive upward bending, or hyperextension. The soft tissues underneath the joint can be stretched, even torn, possibly dislocating the joint.

What Are the Symptoms of Turf Toe?

The big toe joint can be swollen, painful and have a limited range of motion—all classic symptoms as a result of a sudden injury or gradually progression over time. Just like an ankle sprain, turf toe can be categorized as grade 1, grade 2, or grade 3.

A grade 1 injury might only involve mild to moderate stretching, tenderness, swelling, and stiffness in the joint.

Grade 2 injury features partial tearing of the ligaments.

A grade 3 injury represents a complete rupture and/or a dislocation.

athlete holding turf toe

What Causes Turf Toe?

Turf toe can happen in any sport where the front part of the foot is planted on the ground and a force pushes the big toe into hyperextension. A typical case might go like this: a football or soccer player is pushing off to run, but another player falls from behind or the side hyperextending the joint.

Turf toe is especially likely to occur on artificial surfaces, which tend to be both harder and “stickier” to cleats than natural grass. Players who wear more flexible cleats are at higher risk as well.

However, turf toe can occur on any surface and in any sport.  It’s also common among dancers, particularly ballet.

How Is Turf Toe Treated?

The basic, traditional approach to most mild-to-moderate case of turf toe is rest, ice, compression, and elevation (RICE), combined with taping or immobilization (boot or cast) when necessary to protect the joint.

Go back to soon, and you risk re-injuring the toe and starting all over again. After that, you’ll need to continue rehab in order to regain the strength and mobility you need to play at a high level.

If you want to speed things along, the best thing you can do for yourself is make an appointment at the Colorado Center for Podiatric Sports Medicine. We offer a number of advanced, non-invasive remedies to significantly accelerate tissue repair.

If you’ve sprained your big toe, don’t wait around for it to get better—and run the risk of making it worse. Contact Dr. James Yakel and the Colorado Center for Podiatric Sports today at (720) 600-3380.

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