Turf Toe – Everything you need to know

Turf Toe. What is it?
‘Turf toe’ is the name given to an injury of the big toe joint that affects the joint capsule and in some cases the surrounding structures also.
What causes turf toe?
Simply put, increased amounts of stress under the big toe can lead to injury of the structures in the area. The story of how ‘turf toe’ got it’s name is an interesting one. In 1976 turf toe was, for the first time, described by a group of researchers who studied the soccer players in the United States. During one season studies showed that the injury to the bottom of the large toe joint occurred more frequently when soccer was played on artificial turf surfaces, hence the name ‘turf toe’.
Why does turf toe occur?
Although artificial turf can increase the incidence of turf toe, it is not the absolute reason as to why someone may injure the area under the large toe.
All injuries including turf toe injuries are usually caused by multiple factors, unless it is a traumatic injury such as falling from a height. Variables such as load (the amount of repetitive stress going through a body area), biomechanics (the repetitive way a person moves) and capacity (the strength of a person or structure) can influence the reasons as to why the toe was injured.
Why is Assessment for Turf Toe important?
Turf toe can present like many other injuries including injuries of surrounding tendons, bursas, ligaments and bones. A thorough assessment to investigate exactly what the injury is, and often even more importantly, why the injury happened are imperative in a successful management plan.  This thorough level of assessment is needed to ensure that a return to activity or sport occurs in a timely manner and with the least risk of re-injury.
Treatment for Turf Toe:
Multiple treatments are available for treatment of turf toe including:
– Rest / Activity Modification.
– Icing regimes / Cryotherapy (depending on recovery stage)
– Heating regimes/ Thermotherapy (depending on recovery stage)
– Footwear recommendation/ modification.
– Bracing/ Splinting
– Orthotic Therapy
– Strength and Conditioning programs

As mentioned earlier, a thorough assessment and a well considered management plan considering the individual case is imperative for successful outcomes.

For further information on related topics please see these resources:

Why does forefoot pain occur and why does it often not go away by itself?
How do orthotics work?
Do I need a gait analysis?

Written by:
Daniel Monteleone
Podiatrist, Strength and Conditioning Coach
Foot & Ankle Pain
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