Turf Toe

Addressing a Toe Sprain

Spraining your ankle or your knee can leave you limping or even using crutches to get around. Spraining your wrist can make daily activities like typing or opening jars more difficult. What most people don’t consider, however, is how a sprained big toe can sharply limit your mobility and make using your foot very painful. Turf toe can sideline an athlete and make even walking normally a chronic challenge if it’s not treated.

How You Can Sprain Your Big Toe

Turf toe is a big toe sprain that develops when the digit is suddenly and forcefully hyperextended backward. The supporting ligaments and cushioning tissues in the joint end up damaged. This can happen when you trip, fall, or stub your toe. It’s most common among athletes who run or are likely to collide with others while in play.

The injury is named “turf toe” because it’s most common among athletes who play on artificial turf. The hard surface has a strong “grip” that can keep the digit in place even as you try to push off the ground. However, anyone can develop this injury by jamming their big toe.

Like any other kind of sprain, this condition has degrees of damage to the supporting tissues in your joint. A mild sprain simply compresses the cushioning between toe bones and overstretches the connecting ligaments. A moderate sprain involves a tear in these tissues. A severe case involves a complete rupture in a ligament and possibly some dislocation in the joint.

The Effects of Turf Toe

kids playing soccer

Since your big toe is crucial for pushing off the ground to walk or run, this kind of injury can sharply limit your mobility. The damage to the ligaments supporting your toe can be quite painful and make it difficult to push off the ground or even move your digit. A mild injury generally causes low swelling, pain, and stiffness. The more damage to the soft tissues, the more your joint will swell and hurt. It also tends to grow increasingly difficult to put weight or pressure on the injury at all.

Like other sprains, the damage needs invested treatment to heal correctly. Otherwise the ligaments and other soft tissues are likely to become chronically painful and weakened, making it harder for you to return to your activities and, in some cases, perform daily tasks, like walking.

Recovering and Returning

The good news is that treatment can restore your toe to normal and help you get back to your favorite activities. Our team at Gulf South Foot & Ankle, LLC will need to examine your toe to determine the extent of the damage. This may involve multiple diagnostic tests. After that, we will work with you to plan the best course of action to heal your joint and its supporting tissues.

Typically the RICE protocols—rest, ice, compression, and elevation—are a major part of your recovery. You’ll have to take a break from activities that strain your toe. You might need to wear stiff footwear or even a special boot to limit movement or entirely immobilize your digit for a time. Ice the swollen area, wrap it in a compression bandage, and keep it elevated to combat swelling. Once the pain is gone, you’ll need some kind of therapy to recondition the toe to its full strength and help you avoid re-injury. The whole healing process can range from a few weeks to much longer, depending on the damage.

Like any other sprain, turf toe needs prompt and invested treatment to recover properly. It may sound like a simple injury, but with so much relying on your big toe, you can’t afford to ignore it. Our team at Gulf South Foot & Ankle, LLC can help you heal your toe and eliminate your pain. Don’t wait for chronic problems to take care of your foot. Call (504) 708-4810 or use our website to make an appointment at our Metairie, LA, office.

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