The demands placed on the foot and ankle in almost any sport are extreme, and we don’t often realize how important a job our feet have until something happens. Professional athletes, weekend warriors and backyard enthusiasts alike can each fall victim to a painful toe injury called turf toe.

What is turf toe?

This big toe injury is a result of hyperextending the toe joint. It typically happens when the forefoot is fixed on the ground and the heel is raised with such a force that the big toe is pushed past its normal range of motion. It is considered a sprain and can vary in severity from a mild stretching to a tear or a complete rupture of the joint capsule and surrounding ligaments.

It was in the late 1960s and 1970s, when football shoes were more pliable and artificial turf came on the scene, that incidences of turf toe increased. This injury got its name from players getting hurt while playing on artificial turf. Today, players in football, soccer, rugby, baseball and dancers are at risk for hyperextending their big toe joint. Overtraining in running, a collision with another player or jamming the toe into the ground or floor can cause injury.

When it happens, a person may feel a sudden onset of pain, tenderness and swelling. This could be quite intense if the joint becomes dislocated. In many cases, turf toe doesn’t cause a player enough pain to quit playing, which can greatly impact the health of the toe joint. Without proper treatment the joint can become stiff, prone to arthritis and develop into a chronic problem that remains at risk for re-injury.

How we can help

If you have a love for sports, it is important to keep your feet healthy if you want to stay in top shape and in the game. Don’t wait to contact us if you have sustained a turf toe injury, even if you feel it is minor in nature.

We will assess your symptoms, physically examine the toe and take X-rays if we need to confirm or rule out the presence of a fracture or more serious damage to other bones. Our first goal will be to reduce your pain and control any inflammation and swelling. We usually begin with the RICE form of treatment, which involves rest, ice, compression and elevation. We may prescribe anti-inflammatory medications for pain and swelling as well. The time needed for recovery will depend of the severity of your injury. We often recommend wearing stiff soled shoes or taping the toe, both of which can prevent the toe from extending too far.

How quickly you can return to your sport will depend on the timing and nature of the treatment you received and whether you allowed the joint to heal completely. Starting too soon can reinjure the toe and leave you sidelined indefinitely.

It is not often that surgery is necessary with this type of injury, but it may be a possibility if there is a severe tear, a fracture, damage to cartilage, or a loose bone chip in the joint.

If you have sustained a sprain to your big toe, the best outcome starts with early treatment. Contact Dr. Lawrence Kales for more information or treatment options. Call Bayonet Point Foot Health Center in Hudson, FL at (727) 868-2128 or Spring Hill Foot Health Center in