When something bends but doesn’t break, you might think it’s a good thing, but not when it comes to your toe! In this case, you sprain the ligaments surrounding the big toe joint, which is what we call turf toe.
What is Turf Toe?
The term was coined after artificial turf became more prevalent in football. Since the surface has less cushion than playing on grass, football players often jammed their big toe after pushing off into a sprint on the field. The problem usually happens when the toe is bent into hyperextension. Ballerinas also suffer from this condition by jamming their toe during routines. This condition can affect any person involved in activities that plant the forefoot, raise the heel off the ground, and require a forceful push off from the toes, which often causes the hyperextension. Basketball, soccer, and gymnastics often see a lot of these injuries, too.
The sprain occurs at the metatarsophalangeal (MTP) joint in the big toe. This is where the metatarsal bone, which is the long bone in the foot, meets the first toe bone. Surrounding the joint is the plantar complex, which are the structures that hold the joint in place. The severity of the injury can differ from mild to severe. Here are the ranges in severity and symptoms of turf toe:
- Grade 1: Stretching of the plantar complex, causing tenderness and swelling
- Grade 2: Partial tearing of the plantar complex, causing a larger area of tenderness, substantial swelling, bruising, and limited, painful movement of the big toe
- Grade 3: Complete tearing of the plantar complex, causing severe tenderness, swelling, bruising, and difficult, painful movement of the big toe.
Past the Point of Prevention—Apply First Aid and See a Doctor
The injury often happens suddenly, so your first aid needs to be done pretty quickly too. Apply ice and rest, compress, and elevate the foot. If your symptoms are severe, go to the emergency room or see a doctor immediately to get treatment for turf toe.
At our office, we will usually take an X-ray of your toe to make sure there isn’t a fracture and perform some range of motion exercises for the joint. When we make a diagnosis, we may ask you to stay off your foot for two to four days. We will tape your toe or offer braces that will keep the area immobilized during recovery. Physical therapy exercises will also strengthen the joint.
Don’t Break the Rules! Follow Doctor’s Orders
Recovery could take three to four weeks, depending on the severity of your injury. You may be tempted to continue walking immediately, but that will only take your injury longer to heal! Trust us on this, you’ll want to rest, ice, elevate, and compress the toe to make sure you heal completely before you resume activities. If you don’t, you could develop arthritis in the joint that will change your walking style and create additional foot problems down the road.
You can get through this! The experts at Sierra Foot & Ankle only want the best for you. We’ll listen to your concerns and make sure you get the best treatment possible. Our offices in Carson City and Gardnerville also serve Reno, Johnson Lane, and the surrounding areas. Anyone can make an appointment, just call (775) 783-8037 to schedule a time with our office.
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