Go to navigation Go to content
Toll-Free: 888-447-0733
Phone: 916-961-3434
McDowell Podiatry
Call Us 916-961-3434
Toll Free 888-447-0733
Fax 916-961-0540

Taming Turf Toe Involves High Stakes for Athletes

What do football, volleyball, basketball, and soccer have in common? Of course, there’s the obvious answer: a ball. However, these high-impact sports also carry a high risk for athletes developing turf toe during play. This condition can take you out of the game, but won’t keep you out for long if you follow the proper treatment methods.

Taming Turf Toe in AthletesWhen a Sprain Keeps You from Play

Turf toe is a sprain of the tissue in the big toe joint, also known as the metatarsophalangeal (MTP) joint. It happens when the toe is bent back too far when pushing off from hard surfaces into a sprint. The medical term for this is Functional Hallux Limitus/Rigidus. In the early stages it usually is caused because the first metatarsal shaft is elevated and when the great toe (hallux) is extended up (dorsiflexed) it jams into the first metatarsal head and creates pain. Football players are very susceptible to toe sprains when playing on artificial “turf,” which is how the name was formed.

However, the injury can happen in more than just football. Any sport that requires the forefoot to flex and heel to raise can hyperextend the big toe into this type of sprain. Shoes can be a culprit that contributes to this problem, since some flexible soles offer more movement, but less support. People in martial arts, rugby, and the sports mentioned above are most at risk.

Icing and Stretching and Taping, Oh My!

The sprains can range in severity. Most likely, you will feel some swelling and discomfort around the joint at the base of the big toe. If you try to bend your toe or pull it towards you, you will experience pain. The area might be too tender to even touch it. Compare your injured foot to the uninjured foot to inspect the range of mobility and assess injury. All of these sprains should be treated immediately with rest and ice. However, some may require extra immobilization with specially designed orthotics and, in severe cases, surgery.

Grade 1 sprains mean that your ligaments were stretched, which will create some slight pain and swelling in the area. The best treatment is rest, ice, compression, and elevation. A podiatrist can recommend that you try anti-inflammatory medications and can also give you a custom-made orthotic to stabilize the toe. You can most likely keep participating in sports as long as you wear a stiff shoe.

Since grade 2 sprains involve a partial tear of the tissues, the treatment will require a walking boot to keep the joint immobilized. In these cases, most toe movement is limited and painful, so it’s important to not irritate the condition to allow faster healing. After a week, the boot will be taken off and taping will be administered, and we’ll mostly likely recommend that you take one to two weeks off from your sport.

When you have a grade 3 sprain, you’re most likely looking at a complete tear of the tissues. This creates maximum tenderness, swelling, and bruising in the area. We can create a cast that will completely immobilize your foot for a few weeks. You’ll use physical therapy, taping, and stretching to recover from the injury. If your symptoms still keep you from playing sports, we may suggest surgery.

Tame your Sprain at McDowell Podiatry Group

When you visit our office, we might take X-rays to better diagnose turf toe. We can also show you how to tape and stretch the area to avoid further injury and arthritis in the future. We offer same-day service for traumatic injuries, so give us a call at (916) 961-3434. Our office in Carmichael, CA, serves the greater Sacramento area, including Citrus Heights and Roseville. Find and follow us on Facebook, Google+, Twitter, and Pinterest! 

Photo Credit: digidreamgrafix

Dr. Brian McDowell
Dr. Brian McDowell, board-certified podiatrist, provides cutting-edge foot and ankle care in Carmichael, CA.