Joints have a limit. Try straightening your knees or elbows as far as you can. They can bend and straighten a certain distance and no farther; pushing them past that point can have painful consequences. That is the problem with turf toe.
Serious Joint Strain
Turf toe was so named because the injury is particularly common among athletes who play on artificial turf surfaces, though it can happen to anyone. It is actually a sprain in the ligaments that stabilize the first joint of your big toe. Excessive pressure that over-flexes the toe damages the supporting tissues that keep it in place. This weakens the joint and makes using the big toe to push off the ground difficult and painful. You end up with discomfort in the ball of the foot, particularly when you put pressure on it.
There are actually degrees of severity for this injury. A grade one sprain is simply over-stretching the ligaments. You feel tenderness around the joint and may have some swelling and forefoot weakness. A grade two sprain is more serious. The ligaments are partially torn and the swelling is more pronounced. You may or may not have bruising around the joint and your range of motion will be limited. A grade three sprain is a significant injury. One or more of the connectors is ruptured, causing intense pain, severe swelling, and bruising. Your toe will be very difficult to move and painful to the touch.
Re-Stabilizing the Big Toe
Like other sprains, turf toe needs invested care so that the connective tissues can recover properly, no matter how severe the original injury. Dr. Sanjay Patel will carefully examine your foot to diagnose your condition. Our staff will need to use a few tests and possibly take diagnostic images to determine the extent of the damage to your joint. That way we can help you decide what remedies will be most beneficial for you. Then we can help you manage your recovery.
Prompt first aid helps your damaged tissues begin healing right away. Begin with the RICE model: rest, ice, compress, and elevate. Rest your foot by stopping all hard-impact activities and actions that cause pain. This will help prevent additional damage in your forefoot. Ice the big toe frequently to bring down swelling and inflammation around the joint. Wrap your foot in a compression bandage and keep it elevated, too. This also helps discourage swelling.
You’ll need to stabilize your toe to allow it to heal. How this is done will depend on the severity of your condition. If your turf toe is mild, usually you can wear a stiff-soled shoe that limits how much your big toe can bend. A more severe condition may need a full splint for your digit to keep it stable so the ligaments can heal. If the injury is really bad, you may need a cast to immobilize your whole foot. When the ligaments have healed enough, you’ll be able to start physical therapy to regain your range of motion and strength. If your condition doesn’t respond to conservative methods, or the initial damage is particularly severe, you may need surgery to repair the connective tissues and allow your toe to recover.
Injuries to your digits can be more serious than you might think at first. Turf toe is painful and can sideline you for an extended period of time. If you take care of the problem, though, you should be able to get back to your favorite sports and activities without chronic pain. Let Dr. Sanjay Patel and the Family Foot Care & Surgery, L.L.C. staff help you. Just call either of our two offices or use our website to make an appointment with us: (203) 876-7736 for our Milford, CT location, or (203) 288-4055 for the Hamden office.