Turf toes are damage which happens to the big toe of your feet. In essence, turf toe is a sprain which takes place at the bottom of the big toe and it results from abnormal amounts of stress that are placed on the ligaments that are in control of the range of motion for your toes; essentially it is big toe pain.
Whenever the toe is expanded beyond the normal range of motion, such as the bending of the toe in a painful direction, the ligaments are typically torn slightly as a result of the stretching.
Turf toe symptoms include painful and swollen big toe joint, moderate pain when putting weight on your foot, and quite frequently, the inability to run. If you have any of these symptoms, you probably suffer from turf toe.
Turf Toe Diagnosis
If the turf toe symptoms you experience are severe enough for you to contemplate visiting a doctor, then do visit a doctor.
Turf toe is most of the time, not a serious injury, but when left undiagnosed and untreated may develop into a more serious lifelong foot injury that could affect your athletic performance. And if you lead an active lifestyle, you will not want that to happen.
Tell your doctor how the injury occurred. If you recall any snapping sound that preceded or accompanied the first bout of pain, you’d do well to mention that.
By the time you see the doctor your big toe and the joint that links it to the foot may be swollen and bruised. It will definitely be painful.
Its range of motion (or the degree to which you can move it) will also be more or less affected.
The doctor has to decide how serious the injury is. Most of the time it will be a Grade 1 turf toe, or in other words, nothing serious: you’ll just have to avoid playing sports for a few weeks.
Your doctor may also recommend that you choose turf toe shoe inserts to use with your shoes.
If it’s Grade 2 or Grade 3 turf toe, things get a bit more complicated. You’ll probably figure it out on your own when it is something more serious because the pain will be there, moderate to severe.
Both Grade 2 and Grade 3 turf toe entail partial or complete damage to the ligaments in your big toe joint.
In addition, there may also be damage to other ligaments or bones in the foot. If the doctor suspect’s bones have been damaged, they will ask you do to an X-ray or, in rare cases, an MRI scan.
Turf Toe Treatments
The best treatment for turf toe is rest. In addition, depending on the severity of the injury, you may also be recommended icing, compresses, tapping of the big toe to the second toe, contrast baths, cast or a walker boot, anti–inflammatory medication, and, in rare cases, surgery.
Crutches may also be needed, but don’t worry, you’ll get rid of them in less than a week, at least most of the time.
What is crucial is that you not further strain your big toe joint while recovering. That means avoiding running or playing sports.
Turf toe shoe inserts can help you get back to action sooner. Made of carbon fiber, they immobilize your big toe joint so it can heal more quickly.
If you are interested in these shoe implants to make sure you check with your doctor first – there are several varieties available, and some may be better suited than others for the type of injury you have.
Turf Toe Prevention
Complete turf toe prevention may be impossible, especially when athletes or football players are concerned. That said, there are several things you can do to minimize the risk of suffering the annoying injury.
The first preventive measure you should consider is wearing the correct-size shoes. It does not really matter whether you are an athlete, amateur football player, tap dancer, or ballerina – wearing properly fitted shoes will help reduce the strain on your big toe.
For an extra bit of protection, you may consider stiff-sided shoes. Though these can feel bulky, they have increased support; therefore, they can significantly lower your risk of suffering turf toe when used on hard surfaces.
Being attentive to the surface on which you play sports, as well as to the other players on the field also helps.
Nevertheless, this piece of advice is not that practical, since in most cases the injury occurs when you fall badly or jump awkwardly, as when you are overpowered when blocking an opponent or contending with an adversary to catch a ball.
Some football players find that tapping their big toe to their second toe helps them in avoiding turf toe.
A few of them go a step further and use special shoe inserts that restrict the movement of the big toe to prevent hyperextension and thus the injury, without limiting athletic performance.
You may find these inserts useful too, but it’s recommended that you try them before you buy them – you need to make sure you feel comfortable wearing them.
With turf toe, re-injury is a significant risk. It is, in fact, one of the most frustrating things regarding the condition, and it frequently plagues football and tennis players.
Once ligaments are damaged, they weaken and are more likely to sustain a further injury in time.
Grade 3 turf toe sufferers have their ligaments torn completely. For this reason, they are most at risk to suffer re-injury and are advised to do all they can toward turf toe prevention.
Unfortunately, the preventive measures they have are limited to the ones mentioned above.
To prevent re-injury, you may also try shoes with a less-flexible tip. But even more helpful than these shoes is to try to better understand what turf toe is and how it occurs.
While you cannot wholly prevent turf toe, there are a few things you can do to reduce your risk of suffering from this condition. These things come down to:
- Using close-fitting shoes with a harder tip and stiff sides.
- Avoiding, when possible, playing physically intensive sports that can involve tackling, blocking, sprinting, and jumping on hard surfaces.
- Being consciously aware of your surroundings to avoid falls that may cause the injury.
- Keeping your weight in check.
- Learning more about the causes of turf toe to understand better how it occurs.
In the end, remember that while there is no such thing as complete turf toe prevention, there are several protective measures that you should employ, especially if you’re a professional sports player.