Turf toe, which is a sprain of the soft tissue in the main joint in the big toe, is a common sports injury. Although it derives its name from the fact that it is frequently suffered by football players who play on artificial turf, it is also a common ailment of wrestlers, gymnasts, soccer players and dancers. Turf toe is usually caused by jamming or pushing the big toe while running or jumping, which results in swelling, pain and limited joint movement at the base of the toe. Typically, the injury to the toe is sudden (a "pop" may be felt), although it sometimes develops gradually after repeated trauma. Turf toe is diagnosed by physical examination.
Treatment of Turf Toe
At-home treatment using RICE (rest, ice, compression, elevation) is often sufficient; it promotes healing, reduces inflammation and protects the foot from further injury. Over-the-counter anti-inflammatory medications are usually recommended until the pain and swelling subside.
After the approximately 2 to 3 weeks that turf toe takes to heal, physical therapy may be required, particularly for athletes, to regain strength and mobility. The only time surgery is necessary for turf toe is if the bone is chipped or the ligament is completely torn.
Complications of Turf Toe
Apart from being extremely painful, if left untreated turf toe can lead to instability and, even, dislocation of the joint, which, in turn, can cause degenerative arthritis of the big toe, a condition known as hallux rigidus. The risk of developing turf toe is reduced by wearing well-fitting, supportive footwear with stiff soles and, if necessary, appropriate orthotics.