Football fans all over know that turf toe is bad news that can keep a favorite player out of the game and cripple a team’s chances to win. What many people don’t know, however, is what actually happens with this injury. Here at Palm Beach Podiatry, we are ready to provide the treatment necessary to handle a wide array of foot and ankle conditions, including a sprained big toe.
Turf Toe Explained
Essentially, this sports injury happens when the big toe extends beyond its intended limit and the soft tissue ends up becoming inflamed. It became particularly prevalent when artificial playing surfaces—artificial turf—became common on football playing fields. The association between the condition and the surface contributed to this well-known name.
With regard to the toe extending beyond its limitations, it is important to know that the big toe has two different joints, but the metatarsophalangeal joint (MTPJ) is the one relevant to this condition. The MTPJ is found at the base of the toe, right where it connects to the foot, and is comprised of the phalanx and metatarsal bones, which are surrounded by the “plantar complex.”
The plantar complex holds the joint in place and keeps it from dislocating. It includes the plantar plate, collateral ligaments, flexor halluces brevis, and sesamoids. Together these parts provide stability, strength, and restrict unnatural movement. Turf toe is a matter of injury to any of the soft tissues making up the plantar complex.
Grading Toe Sprains
Not all these big toe sprains are equal, and medical professionals use a grading scale to determine the severity of the injury:
Grade 1 – This is the mildest form of the sprain, and the patient will likely experience slight swelling and pin-point tenderness.
Grade 2 – At this level, there is often widespread tenderness, moderate bruising, and swelling.
Grade 3 – In the most extreme level, swelling, bruising, and pain are rather severe and it can be difficult to even move the big toe.
Common Turf Toe Causes
Unlike sprained ankles, which happen to many people who are not playing sports or performing strenuous physical activity, a sprained big toe only happens under extreme physical duress. As such, this is closely related to athletic events, like football, soccer, and ballet.
For the ball sport athletes, a common situation causing the injury is that the big toe “sticks” to the ground while the rest of the foot is pushing off with tremendous force, thereby causing the hyperextension. This also is the result of softer, more flexible shoes that do not have good stability in the front.
Treating Toe Sprains
The initial wave of treatment for a sprained big toe should be the RICE protocol. This is a matter of resting, icing, compressing, and elevating the injured toe. Additionally, nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) purchased over-the-counter can provide symptom relief. Be sure to check with us first, though, for dosage recommendations.
Whereas RICE is good for Grade 1 sprains, additional care should be taken for higher grade injuries that are more severe. This includes the use of a walking boot or cast and physical therapy to strengthen and stretch the big toe. Surgery is not usually necessary in treating this condition, but it can be an option for certain cases that fall in the Grade 3 category.
Top Turf Toe Care in Palm Beach, FL
Hopefully RICE treatment will alleviate the pain of your case of turf toe, but our foot specialists are here to help if you need further assistance. We can evaluate your condition and then create an effective treatment plan to get you back on the field in the shortest possible time.
Contact any of our offices by using our online form or schedule your appointment with Palm Beach Podiatry by calling (561) 791-7773 for our Loxahatchee, FL office, (561) 734-3100 for our Boynton Beach office, or (772) 468-0089 for our Fort Pierce office.