The Classic Tale of Turf Toe

Robert G. Parker
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Dr. Parker is a podiatrist and surgeon in Houston, TX who has been helping patients for more than 40 years.

You know the quote from Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet, “A sprain, by any other name, hurts as much.” Well, maybe that’s not quite how the original quote goes, but the statement is true nonetheless. Whether you call it turf toe or a big toe sprain, the pain is the same. Let’s look at what happens with this sports injury and what to do to get relief.

What’s in a Name?

This particular injury got its name from the fact that it occurred more often after stadiums started installing artificial turf on the playing field. Cleats would get stuck in the turf when athletes pushed off for a step, and the toe would stay put while the foot and leg leaned forward. The result was that the toe was pushed too far back and the ligaments in the joint capsule were strained and stretched beyond their normal length.

As much as a football coach or player dreads hearing the term, it is not exclusive to the football field. Those who play basketball or soccer, wrestle, and perform gymnastics or dance are also particularly susceptible. In fact, anything that repeatedly jams the toe against a surface or uses it to push your body forward can cause it.

Turf Toe Symptoms Are Not So Sweet

Besides causing a lot of pain, the toe will likely swell up as your body rushes fluids to the area to heal the damage. This puts extra pressure on the joint and causes even more discomfort, besides making it stiff and hard to move. With a repetitive type of injury, these symptoms will come on gradually, but when it happens because of sudden force, you may even hear a snapping noise in the joint and the pain will be almost immediate.

When we evaluate the injury we will ask several questions about how it happened and have you describe your daily activities at work and during leisure. We may want X-rays to rule out any fracture of the bones in the joint. Once we have this information, we can design the best treatment for your situation.

How to Treat a Sprained Toe

The main thing you need to do to heal from a sprain is rest. The tissues need time to rebuild and become strong again, so your joint is properly held together. We may use a special shoe or tape the toe to its neighbor to provide a stabilizing support while it heals. A cast or special brace, and possibly even crutches, may be advised so that the toe is protected. In rare cases, surgery may even be needed to repair torn ligaments.

During healing, we may advise using ice packs to reduce swelling and pain, and a compression wrap and elevation to keep fluid from collecting in the region. We may also start you on physical therapy stretches and exercises to get the muscles, tendons and ligaments back in shape. The quicker treatment begins, the less time recovery should take, but plan on being rather incapacitated for a while with a severe injury.

Treatment for Foot Injuries from Houston’s Expert Podiatrist

When it comes to a respected name, Parker Foot & Ankle has long been known in Houston, TX for its superior foot care methods—the tried and true as well as the innovative. We want to do more than help your injury heal—we want to help you prevent it from happening again. We can evaluate your shoes and recommend the best types to protect your toes. There may be gait issues that we could correct with custom orthotics, or training modifications you can make that will make the injury less likely.

When you consult Dr. Robert Parker, he’ll look beneath the surface and find the best way forward for your feet. Call us at (281) 497-2850, or contact us using the form on our website, to set up a time for your visit. While you are at it, request a copy of our free book—When Your Heels Hurt...You Hurt All Over—because injuries don’t only happen in your toes.

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