Turf Toe: All about turf toe and how to manage big toe pain

WHAT IS A TURF TOE?

Turf toe occurs when you sprain your big toe joint. You might feel the pain right away if your toe bends suddenly and quickly. The pain can start to come on gradually if you’ve hyper-extended your toe over and over again. The term was coined from American footballers who experienced this injury whilst playing on hard artificial surfaces instead of grass, as synthetic grass is less shock absorbent (hence the term ‘turf’). Turf toe occurs when there’s repeated push off on the big toe when running or jumping. 

WHAT CAN INCREASE THE CHANCES OF GETTING A TURF TOE?

In Australia many people or athletes who suffer from turf toe play football, soccer (especially Futsal or indoor), basketball, wrestling and/or are gymnasts. Basically, any sporting activity that exposes the big toe joint to repetitive pushing off like running or jumping will increase the chances of getting a turf toe.

HOW DO YOU KNOW IF YOU HAVE A TURF TOE?

The most noticeable symptom of turf toe is pain around the big toe area, including the joint that goes up your foot toward your ankle. The signs and symptoms of turf toe can include pain, swelling and limited joint movement. Turf toe can also be caused by a direct injury leading to damage of the bone beneath the cartilage. If direct injury is the cause, the signs and symptoms may begin suddenly and get worse over a 24-hour period. 

HOW DO I TREAT TURF TOE?

If Big Toe pain continues after 24 hours then the first thing to do is to reduce activity levels immediately. Regardless of the severity of the injury the R.I.C.E ( Rest, Ice,Compression, Elevation) protocol should always be used.

Taping can be done at home to help alleviate pain from a turf toe injury.  Watch this short 3 mins video to see how easy it is to tape your toe.

IF MY TURF TOE PAIN PERSISTS WHAT SHOULD I DO?

If pain still persists then you should visit a Podiatrist so appropriate actions can be taken immediately.

At The Footcare Clinic, we treat turf toe conditions according to their severity.  We request for imaging such as Ultrasound and X-Rays to make certain of the diagnosis.  When diagnosed, the types of treatment we provide for most cases of turf toe are taping – this will restrict the range of motion at the joint and help ‘rest’ the joint for it to heal.  

In turf toe cases which are more severe we may also prescribe a moonboot to completely immobilise the whole foot for up to a week to rest the joint for it to heal. The more severe cases may need immobilisation for several weeks. However, in some cases we may suggest a surgical intervention if cartilage is damaged or there is a fracture at the sesamoid bone (a small bone that sits inside the tendon under the big toe).

So if you think you have a turf toe, it’s time to turf it! (pardon the pun 😉)

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