It’s Just a Toe!?
By: Brad Homan, D.O.
Generally speaking toe injuries can be relatively insignificant. That is unless the toe happens to be the great toe- better known as the big toe. In fact, big toe injuries, while not as common as ankle sprains, can result in double the time lost from activity compared to an ankle sprain. Big toe injuries require careful attention; misdiagnosis or lack of treatment may lead to problems that can last several years. One of the more common big toe injuries is turf toe. Turf toe is seen mostly in football and rugby players but can affect any athlete.
Turf toe injuries can be caused by bending the toe too much in any direction; but the most common is hyperextension. Hyperextension occurs when the foot is dorsiflexed (as in push-off or football stance) and the athlete is forced into greater foot dorsiflexion with the toe fixed on the ground or when push-off force is too great. Hyperextension causes damage to the ligaments or joint on the underside of the big toe. Depending on the severity of the injury an athlete may miss anywhere from three days to six weeks. The lesser the degree of injury the sooner an athlete can get back to sport with taping and bracing. More severe injuries may require casting for immobilization.
It is very important to have turf toe treated by a physician as complications of the injury can include fracture and dislocation. In addition, about half of the individuals who suffer a turf toe injury have chronic symptoms up to five years later. Proper function of the big toe is imperative for normal foot function and normal walking patterns. A bad toe can lead to knee, hip and back problems. Think twice before you dismiss that big toe injury- treat it properly to keep your time away from sport to a minimum.