Health Watch: Kelli Adams You have heard this name before. But do you know exactly what it is? Turf toe is an injury that, approximately 90 percent of the time, will affect your big toe. It is an injury to the soft tissue and joint (the first phalanx). Usually it is associated with football players because of playing on rigid surfaces such as artificial turf. However, this injury can happen to anyone who is doing something that causes the big toe to extend beyond its normal range. Hyperextension of the big toe can happen when athletic shoes that have very flexible soles “grab” the turf, for example. During the push-off phase when running, the big toe may stay flat and doesn’t lift to push off. Another example is if you fall forward or are tackled and the big toe stays flat. Turf toe can be very debilitating for athletes who need to jump, accelerate or quickly change direction. Symptoms may include swelling, pain and decreased movement in the big toe. It is highly recommended to see a sports medicine/orthopedic doctor to rule out other injuries such as a bone fracture. Rest is important as well as ice/elevation when treating turf toe. The big toe may be taped/strapped or even immobilized with a walking boot to relieve stress to the joint. After a rest period, athletes can benefit from physical therapy to re-establish range of motion, strength and movement mechanics. Turf toe can be stubborn and can become a chronic problem if left untreated or not allowed to heal properly. Evaluating shoe wear, investing in orthotics and working on gait/running mechanics are important elements to preventing this injury from reoccurring. Kelli Adams is a physical therapist assistant.
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February 1, 2013