Turf toe is a common term used throughout football season, and can be a season ending injury if not cared for. While turf toe is more prevalent during football season, the problem can exist in other sports. The term “turf toe” was coined when there was an increase in sprains of the big toe when artificial turf became a common playing surface. Shoes that are pliable and flexible are often a source of turf toe. Turf toe is a sprain of the 1st MPJ, the joint where the big toe attaches, and ligaments and the capsule can be torn. Deion Sanders, for one, is someone who has experienced turf toe and the difficulty in resolving the symptoms.
Symptoms include pain at the base of the big toe or ball of the foot, swelling, and possibly redness. Range of motion is limited, and can be very painful. Pushing off is extremely painful. So, does artificial turf really cause this? It certainly occurs more frequently than on grass, but isn’t the only factor. Yes, turf toe can occur even while playing on grass fields. Football shoes are a primary cause of this. Some football shoes are to flexible, to pliable, and bend in the incorrect place leading to this. Preferably, a stiffer shoe, one with a carbon or comparable plate, should be a first choice of shoe with anyone with a history of this.
If an athlete starts to experience pain in the ball of the foot near the big toe, initial treatment should consist of rest, ice, elevation, and protect or splint the big toe. Various taping methods are available to limit the ROM of the big toe which will aid in recovery. Orthotics with a stiff extension or even a stiffer-soled shoe are great options.
Turf toe can become a nagging football injury that can lead to missed time, or even end a season. Recognize the symptoms and begin treatment ASAP before someone else makes that decision for you.