Turf Toe - An Overview of an Overlooked Injury

If you are a football fan, you undoubtedly have been puzzled when a player is out for weeks with Turf Toe. How is it possible that an athlete who is getting paid millions of dollars to play will stay out for such a seemingly minor injury?

Turf Toe is an injury where the first metatarsal-phalangeal joint, the joint just behind the big toe, is sprained. In football, it often occurs when a player is set before a play, the joint already in an extended position. When the play starts, the player propels forward, further extending the joint. When the player is hit and forced back, the joint hyperextends and sprains. Sound painful? It is! Much more so than stubbing a toe, as so many mistake this injury for.

This injury does not only occur in football, but is possible in most every sport. The joint becomes inflamed and quite painful as a result. This is treated with oral anti-inflammatory medication and strapping, a taping to limit the extension of the joint. Occasionally more aggressive treatment, such as an injection of cortisone into the joint, may be needed.

Turf Toe can also cause more long-term conditions which will be a nuisance for a long time to come. A severe sprain to the joint can cause an arthritic condition to begin. The first symptom of arthritis is pain with exertion - running, climbing, etc. With time, this can lead to a bone enlargement and spurring similar to a bunion.

Conservative measures are usually used in the treatment of Turf Toe and the resulting arthritis. A custom insole called an orthotic will help to position the foot in an ideal position, keeping the pressure off the injured joint. Another level of support is the use of a thin carbon steel insole to restrict the motion of the joint. Physical therapy is also helpful in restoring the motion of the joint while helping to minimize the inflammation.

Surgical treatments are available for this condition if conservative measures fail. The surgeries range in complexity from removal of a bone spur over the joint to decompression of the joint by shortening the metatarsal bone. Your podiatrist will be able to discuss this in much greater detail with you if the need arises.

So the next time you see a hard hit and hear about turf toe, you can rest assured knowing that instead of earning his salary on the field, that player is going through some painful rehabilitation. All in the name of our entertainment!


Dr. Andrew Schneider of Houston, TX is a physician and surgeon specializing in the foot and ankle. He is the medical director of Tanglewood Foot Specialists and treats all injuries and conditions of the foot and ankle. For more information and many informative videos, or to order his free book on foot health, visit http://www.tanglewoodfootspecialists.com and his blog at http://tanglewoodfootspecialists.blogspot.com

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Dr. Andrew Schneider
Dr. Andrew Schneider is a podiatrist and foot surgeon at Tanglewood Foot Specialists in Houston, TX.