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Turf Toe: An Injury On The Rise

Turf Toe: An Injury On The Rise
Turf Toe An Injury On The Rise

Turf Toe An Increasingly Common Injury

If my physiotherapy clinic is anything to go off sprains to the big toe are becoming increasingly common in Sydney during recent times. Perhaps it is as a direct result of artificial turf surfaces becoming more common throughout Sydney and the tendency for athletes to wear softer, more flexible footwear as the light weight minimalist footwear trend continues to gain momentum here in Australia.
Although associated most commonly with American football players, playing or training on artificial grass, it seems that turf toe is an injury on the rise in Sydney. The harder, less shock absorbent surfaces of artificial turf combined with flexible footwear providing less stability to the forefoot and toes makes for a risky combination for big toe injuries.

What Is Turf Toe

The simplest definition of turf toe is that it is a sprain of the main joint of the big toe. A generic term to describe a range of injuries to the capsule and ligament structures of the metatarsophalangeal joint.
The big toe is made up of two joints. The largest of which is the metatarsophalangeal joint (MTP), where the first long bone of the foot (metatarsal) meets the first bone of the toe (phalanx). In turf toe, it is this joint the MTP joint that is injured.
In particular it refers to a soft tissue injury to the plantar complex (supportive soft tissues of the underside of the toe) Injuries can obviously vary in severity from stretching of the soft tissue to partial tearing, and even total dislocation of the MTP joint. Caused by jamming the big toe or repeatedly pushing off the big toe forcefully as in running and jumping.

The Mechanics Of Turf Toe Injuries

When walking or running, you begin each subsequent step by raising your heel and shifting your body weight forward onto the ball of your foot. At a certain point you will propel yourself forward by “pushing off” of your big toe and allowing your body weight to shift to the other foot. If the big toe for some reason stays flat on the ground and doesn’t lift to push off, you run the risk of suddenly injuring the area around the joint.
Other ways to injure the big toe causing turf toe injury are being tackled or falling forward and the big toe staying flat. These above movements are the same as bending your big toe back by hand beyond its normal limit, this action causes hyperextension of the big toe. Hyperextension, repeated time after time or as a excessive sudden force can cause a sprain in the ligaments that surround the joint commonly known as turf toe.

Turf Toe: Not As Common As An Ankle Sprain But More Serious

Although lateral ankle sprains are four times more common than a sprain to the first MTP of your big toe, these turf toe injuries can account for double the number of missed training sessions than your common ankle sprain. Approximately forces in the realm of 8 X your body weight impact your big toe when jumping so any injury to your toe can create a significant problem or disability. Hence the diagnosis and correct management of suspected turf toe injuries is crucial.

Disclaimer: Sydney Physio Clinic does not endorse any treatments, procedures, products mentioned. This information is provided as an educational service and is not intended to serve as medical advice. Anyone seeking specific orthopaedic advice or assistance on Turf Toe: An Injury On The Rise should consult his or her general practitioner or physiotherapist or otherwise appropriately skilled practitioner.

Hayden Latimer is the founder of and principle physiotherapist at Sydney Physio Clinic. Since graduating from Otago University, Dunedin, New Zealand he’s gained wide experience practicing across the globe for over 15 years and is now extremely knowledgeable in helping people reduce discomfort and restore function and mobility.


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