So many athletes know the frustration caused by turf toe. This sports injury can cause extreme big toe pain, and it can be very serious if left untreated. People who play sports are often competitive and will usually try to push through their pain so as not to lose any playing time. That’s not a good idea. You need to give your body time to heal so you can get back out there and give your sport 100%.

What Is Turf Toe?

Turf toe is a sports injury that can affect people who play sports on artificial ground, such as football players. It is essentially a sprain to the big toe, but it can cause even more serious complications. The main symptoms to look out for are pain, swelling, bruising, and the inability to move your big toe.

There are three levels or grades. Grade 1 means that you have slightly stretched the soft tissue to the point where there is a bit of swelling and pain. You can usually walk without too much pain, but it is still important to treat your condition so that it doesn’t progress further. Grade 2 is when there is a partial tear of tissue. The pain, swelling, and bruising might be a bit more severe. It can also be difficult to move your toe at this point. Grade 3 is the most serious and it occurs when there is a complete tear of tissue. This is when you will have the most big toe pain and swelling, and it can feel almost impossible to move your toe or bear weight on it.

What Causes This to Happen?

Athletes who practice their sport on artificial turf are at a higher risk of suffering from this

condition. This type of playing field has less give than something softer like grass. The big toe is made up of two joints, one of which is the metatarsophalangeal (MTP) joint. It is the largest joint where the phalanx and the metatarsal meet.

This is the joint that becomes damaged when turf toe occurs. It is surrounded by several structures that are responsible for holding it in place to keep it from becoming dislocated. These structures are known as the “plantar complex”. If the MTP joint is harmed it can also cause damage to the plantar complex. In many sports, specifically football, the heel is usually in a raised position with the forefront on the ground. When you try to push off your foot but your toe locks in place on the ground, you could end up spraining it.

How Do You Treat Turf Toe?

Treating turf toe depends on the level of injury. For a grade 1 you can usually get by with simply using the RICE (rest, ice, compression, and elevation) protocol. You will need to completely rest your feet for a few days, but after that you can usually go back to playing sports if you wear protective shoes with stiffer soles for a period of time.

For grade 2 injuries you will need to wear a boot for about a week and then follow a taping regimen after that. Additionally, you will need to follow the grade 1 procedure as well until you are completely healed.

Grade 3 injuries are the most serious and therefore require the longest healing time. You will need to immobilize your foot for longer until you are able to follow the grade 2 and 1 regimens. In some severe cases you will need surgery to fix other damage that may have been caused. Physical therapy may also be beneficial for those with more severe cases of turf toe.

Where Can I Get Help?

Dr. Mark Gasparini treats lots of sports injuriesand can evaluate your big toe pain. Call us at (516) 804-9038 when you have a toe injury—or any other foot problem—and set up an appointment in our Massapequa, NY office.