If you or your child plays sports on artificial turf, chances are that you’ve heard about turf toe and know it’s a bad thing. But do you really understand what causes the injury? As a Houston podiatrist, I know that understanding turf toe and recognizing the injury in its early stages can help keep you or your child on the athletic field and off of crutches, so I thought I’d give you some background on this often-misunderstood toe injury.
Turf toe is the phrase used to mean that you’ve sprained the ligaments around your big toe—football players are most commonly affected by this injury, but soccer and basketball players, wrestlers, gymnasts and dancers may all be at risk.
When you engage in a sport, your big toe helps you push off between steps as you shift weight from one foot to another. When you are constantly pushing off on a hard surface, the force of the “turf” puts a strain on your toe ligaments, causing them to become hyper-extended and inflamed.
For the purposes of this posting, I’m focusing on turf-toe as an overuse injury, since that is preventable, but it’s important to remember that this type of sprain can be an acute injury as well.
In the early stages of turf-toe, the athlete will notice pain, minor swelling and a lack of mobility at the base of one or both big toes. If left untreated, these problems will become more debilitating over time, especially if you continue to participate in exacerbating activities like sports.
The best treatment for this kind of injury is rest, as well as a re-evaluation of your shoe-choice, so the sooner you pay attention to your symptoms, the better. If you are experiencing any kind of pain around your big toe and you have been involved in any competitive athletics, it’s important to schedule an injury evaluation with Dr. Andrew Schneider as soon as possible to keep your problem from progressing further.