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What is Turf Toe?

The condition called “Turf Toe” is a sprain of the big toe joint. It happens commonly in athletic injuries when the toe is forcibly bent into hyperextension or hyperflexion (too high up or too high down). 

The term "Turf Toe" rose in popularity, as did the incidence of the condition, after artificial turf became more and more prevalent in playing fields for soccer and football. Artificial turfs by their nature are harder surfaces than regular grass and are not as forgiving in regard to forces being applied against them, which in many cases can result in injury to the limb involved. Specifically what is injured is the soft tissue structures that make up the part of the big toe joint that is contact with the ground, otherwise known as the plantar complex (e.g. plantar plate andd collateral ligaments).

How is Turf Toe graded?

These injuries are graded in sequential pattern that vary from over-stretching of the soft tissue to complete dislocation of the toe. Grading the injury help us, as doctors, render three appropriate treatments.

How is the diagnosis made?

We will start with a physical examination of the injured part of your foot. In addition to palpating the affected area to determine the location of your pain, we will also need to put the joint through range of motion, in order to look for instability thtat might sugest a tear in the plantar complex.

Next, we will take x-rays of both your feet to rule out differential diagnoses. While soft tissue cannot be visualized on x-ray, certain findings can suggest damage to these particular structures. To confirm suspicions or possibly aid in grading the injury, we may order an MRI of the foot. 

What will my doctor do to treat this injury?

Fortunately, most cases of turf toe can be treated successfully, with full recovery to normal range of motion and activity without surgical intervention. Treatment, however, is determined by the grade of the injury.

No matter what, physical therapy will be helpful and should be started as soon as symptoms allow for that kind of activity. This will help to strengthen and stretch the soft tissues and prevent joint stifness.

How will this affect me in the long-term?

Appropriate treatment will dictate the long-term outcome. If treated urgently and effectively, there should be no long-term effects and range of motion should remain free and painless. The most common complications are pain and joint stiffness, but patients can also experience lack of push-off strength, stiffness, and development of a bunion.

 

 

 

 

 

Author
Sam Meyers, DPM Samuel Meyers, DPM is a board-certified and fellowship trained foot and ankle surgeon at Aloha Foot and Ankle Associates in Mission Viejo, California. Dr. Meyers treats a broad range of foot and ankle conditions and is honored to help individuals living in and around Orange County get back on their feet. Dr. Meyers earned his B.S. in biological sciences at the University of California, Davis, and his Doctor of Podiatric Medicine (DPM) degree at the William M. Scholl College of Podiatric Medicine in North Chicago, Illinois. During his 3 year residency at DVA-Loma Linda, he met his wife, who is also named Sam! Afterwards, He completed a fellowship in advanced rearfoot reconstruction in Newport Beach. After his training was complete, Dr. Meyers joined the Aloha Foot and Ankle Associates team. Dr. Meyers lives in Coto de Caza with his wife, their dog and bunny. Under the monkier Double Sam Farms, Dr. Meyers and his wife have brought joy to their community with their two miniature alpacas, Autumn and Willow.

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