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Turf Toe Injury

What is it?

A turf toe injury is a sprain to the ligaments of the large toe joint. The name comes from injuries seen in professional athletes that play sports on artificial turf. This injury can be very painful for the athlete and can easily interfere with one's normal running activities. There is frequently a localized swelling of the large toe joint with turf toe injuries, while weight bearing and range of motion testing will usually accentuate the pain.

What causes it?

A turf toe injury is caused when one bends their big toe joint up (hyperextension) or down (hyperflexion) past the normal allowable amount of range of motion. This causes a sprain of the ligaments surrounding the big toe joint and subsequent pain on weight bearing. The most frequent type of turf toe injury encountered is due to hyperextension. Associated with this condition is often an overstretching of the plantar (bottom) capsule of the involved joint. The toe must be evaluated to rule out a fracture, tendon rupture or dislocation.

How do you treat them?

Treatment for turf toe includes rest, ice, and compression of the joint. These should all be done to help decrease swelling of the joint and associated soft tissue structures. The toe can also be splinted with athletic tape as one returns to activities. The splint will help to decrease the range of motion of the toe so as to prevent further injury. A special device that is inserted into the shoe provides an extension for the big toe and can be used for long-term treatment. These conditions will usually respond well to therapy but must be recognized and properly diagnosed early.

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