Toe injuries can be both painful and slow to heal. Hidden inside a shoe, an injured toe doesn’t get as much rest or attention as it should. A common toe injury among athletes is called turf toe.
What is Turf Toe?
Turf toe is a sprain of the joint at the base of your big toe. Most often associated with football players—as indicated by the name—turf toe is not exclusive to the NFL. It can happen to anyone but is more prevalent in athletes.
Turf toe is caused by stretching or tearing of the ligaments in the big toe joint. Toe hyperextension puts too much stress on the ligaments, causing damage. Generally, the injury occurs when the toe is bent to 90 degrees and pressed to the ground. Excess pressure in that position causes overextension.
Turf toe usually involves pain and swelling at the base of the big toe. It can be difficult to move the injured digit and you may hear or feel a popping at the time of the injury. If the joint pops out of place, it may feel loose.
There are three grades of turf toe. Grade one is mild, with stretched ligaments. Grade two involves partial tearing. Grade three turf toe involves complete tearing of tissues, sometimes joint dislocation, and severe pain and swelling.
Turf Toe Treatment
The most common treatments for turf toe include rest and protecting the toe. Icing, elevation, and over-the-counter medicines like ibuprofen can help reduce pain and swelling.
Turf toe taping (to the neighboring toes) helps keep the toe stable and supported while it heals. A turf toe brace also provides support and may be easier to use properly. Your podiatrist can help you figure out the best method for your injury and teach you how to use either a brace or tape properly.
Turf Toe Prevention
There are ways to lower your chances of turf toe. If you’re an athlete, be sure to stretch before you work out, warmed up muscles and tissues are less prone to injury.
More specific to turf toe, try and wear shoes that are as supportive and stable as possible for your sport. Avoiding shoes with excess flexibility in the toe area can help soccer and football players protect their toes.
The use of turf toe taping and turf toe braces can also help prevent injury, especially if you have had a previous incidence. Orthotic inserts may also help. Be sure to get proper guidance before using any tape, braces, or orthotics.
You can also reduce the strain on your toes by being mindful of the types of activities you do and how often you do them. Trying to avoid the positions that lead to turf toe, at least on some days, can give your feet a breather.
Finally, don’t ignore signs that your body is unhappy. A sore toe may be on its way to significant injury. Talk to a trainer, physical therapist, or podiatrist about any pain or soreness.
Contact us today to find out more about turf toe treatment and prevention.