If you are a sports person, particularly a football player, this term will ring a bell. It is very common among players in a variety of sports, including basketball, gymnastics, and soccer, as well as in dance forms, like ballet. Turf toe refers to the nagging pain caused by the ligament sprain around the big toe and is very common among players who play on the artificial surfaces. It is a nuisance rather than an injury, which raises serious concerns. Though called turf toe, it can be caused in grass as much as on any other firm surfaces.
Turf toe results from stressful movements that sprain the ligaments around the base of the big toe. This usually happens when one pushes the big toe with great force as in running and jumping. It may also happen when the big toe is jammed quite often during sports activities. Many times, athletes force the entire body weight to be passed on to the toe, injuring the ligaments surrounding the joint. In most of the cases the injury is felt all on a sudden. Injury is also more pronounced when the type of support provided by the shoes is not adequate. If the shoe worn is not supportive enough, the injury may happen in grass surface also. When the shoes are too flexible allowing bending of the toes to a great extent, the injury is common in any surface.
The most common symptoms of turf toe include:
- Swelling and pain at the base of big toe
- Pain and tenderness while bending the toe
If the injury is caused by repetitive movements and stress, the symptoms may develop gradually and aggravate over a period of time. On the other hand, if the injury is caused by a sudden movement or force, the pain will be immediate and worsen with further movements.
Applying cold compress and compression bandages provides relief. Taking adequate rest and keeping the feet at a raised position also helps in alleviating the symptoms. This provides time for the tissue to heal and prevent further damage to the affected portion. Inflammation and pain can be reduced by taking over-the-counter medications. Stress on the toe can be reduced by strapping it to the adjacent toe. Putting the foot in a cast or using special walking boots is useful in reducing the movement of the toe.
Pain normally reduces within two to three weeks, provided the stress on the joint is less. Physical therapy may be recommended for few to get back the full strength and mobility of the joint.