Turf toe is an injury to the ligament and joint capsule (structures that stabilize and provide protection) of your big toe joint. This occurs when the big toe joint is excessively extended (turn upwards) beyond its usual range of motion causing trauma to the ligament and joint capsule of the big toe joint. Turf toe usually happens in sports such as Football, Rugby and Athletics.
You will often experience:
- A snapping sound at the time of injury
- Painful, red and swollen 1st big toe joint
- May develop the inability to flex the base of the big toe when walking
- Pain is often felt at the bottom part of the 1st big toe joint
Main Contributing Factors
- Artificial Turf: Artificial turf is harder and hence lack of shock absorbent properties as compared to natural grass. Increased friction with artificial turf causes the front part of the foot to be fixed on the ground thereby causing excessive stress to the toe joints.
- Footwear: As the number of cleats in footwear increases, this leads to increase in frictional traction leading to increased risk of turf toe.
- Foot Type: A flexible front part of your foot allows your big toe joint to be at risk of excessive flexing leading to turf toe injury.
- Shoe Fitting Problems: A shoe that is too long for your foot can cause increased stress on your big toe joint and may lead to turf toe. This often happens when trying to fit a wide foot into a larger size shoe.
- Flexible Ankle Joint: It is also suggested that a person with a flexible ankle joint has an increased risk of suffering from turf toe.
Treatment for Turf Toe
- Rest: Resting allows the body to repair the injured 1st big toe joint.
- Ice baths: Ice reduces the inflammatory process and pain reduction
- Non steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs: NSAIDs helps reduce pain and inflammation in the first few days of the injury
- Mobilization: Early mobilization of the big toe joint reduces restriction and allows a shorter period of healing time (Moon Boot may be required)
- Strapping: can be administered to ‘splint’ and stabilize the injured big toe joint
- Offload: An orthotic device can be custom made to support, immobilize and offload the big toe joint during the immobilization period
What can you do?
- Wearing appropriate footwear for different ground surfaces is important