Turf Toe
Hard Surfaces Are Hard On Toes

Turf Toe doesn't sound like much but it has taken out the toughest of professional athletes. Plenty of amateurs too.

Maybe you too. There were plenty before you, there will be plenty after you. If you run, jump, sprint, or do anything else where you're pushing off with your big toe, you too could develop this problem.

Every step and every stride requires function of the big toe.

Tendonitis of the big toe, big toe joint bruise, big toe joint injury, big toe ligament injury, all these fall in the category of turf toe injuries. And it doesn't have to be the big toe that gets affected, but it mostly always is.

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What Is Turf Toe?

What is Turf Toe?

It's a dysfunction of the foot, and big toe specifically, that has taken out the likes of , Chicago Bulls star guard Derrick Rose, Dallas Cowboys' All-Pro cornerback Dion Sanders (late 90's), New York Giants tight end Mark Bavaro (in the late 80's), and more recently Indiana Pacers' Carlos Boozer and Chicago Bulls All-Star guard Derrick Rose.

Visualize your big toe. Locate the joint where the toe meets the foot. That's the metatarsal phalangeal joint.

Specifically describing the bottom side of the foot, ligaments connect the toe bone to the foot bone(s). Tendons touch and cross the joint. Connective tissue tightly and loosely wraps it all.

Most always due to hyper-extension of the joint, any bruise to the joint or surrounding tissue and/or any sprain or strain (over stretch and/or rip and/or tear) of the joint and supporting ligament and/or tendon initiates a painful and debilitating dynamic.

And while toe de turf can be caused by a one time event, it most often is a function of irritation adding up over time until one day it passes a threshold and then you have PAIN.

Turf Toe in not technically Tendonitis (What Is Tendonitis?)

But the injury sets up a Pain Causing Dynamic which does all the same things: It turns up the dial on the Process of Inflammation, dumps pain enhancing chemical into the area, tightens muscles to 'guard and protect', etc. And things just get worse from there.

Big Toe Tendonitis 
Or Turf Toe?

Turf Toe is a specific situation, a bruise and/or rip/tear of ligament/tendon. Big toe tendonitis is inflammation of the tendon that runs along the big toe joint.

Various factors are shared: inflammation, too tight muscles, muscles unable to fire optimally and thus absorb force poorly, a freaked out nervous system, insufficiency and depletion of various nutrients.

Maybe you have tear, maybe you do not. Let's hope for 'do not'.

It's important to understand that your injury, no matter how bad it is, is a symptom of something. Your injury is where the problem ended up, but is NOT the cause of your problem.

Toe Joint Pain and turf toe go hand in hand...so to speak.

What Exactly Causes Turf Toe?

The toe gets hyperextended and thus the joint is injured. This can becaused by:

  • knee and toes on the ground and something hits down on the heel
  • too much torque/tension on the structure while running, jumping, pushing off, etc, cause hyper-extension of the joint and overstretch of the metatarsal phalangeal joint ligament.
eccentric heel drop start picture
Joint In Neutral Position

Let's use this picture of my finger to illustrate.

Obviously my finger is not a toe, but I felt like taking a picture of my finger more than I felt like doing the yoga required to take a picture of my toe....

Notice the straight, neutral line of the structure.

180 degrees is pretty much as far as the finger (is designed to extend back. Granted, the big toe joint (where foot and toe meet) is designed to go farther than that.

But then look at the second picture.

eccentric heel drop start picture
In Hyper-Extended Position

Notice how it's bent back, hyper extended. Do that with your own finger (and then your toe when you get the concept). Feel the compression, the tension, all the force pulling things apart and on the opposite side, compressing together.

Not only is the joint getting compressed, but the bottom of the finger is getting pulled apart. Ligament has to HOLD together.

So while pushing on your finger like that, imagine that your finger is your big toe. And it's running down a football field on hard astroturf, or a hard basketball court. Or the 26 miles of a marathon.

Do this, and pay attention to your big toe. Stand up and kind of jump in place 20 times, like jumping a jumping rope. Feel how your big toe pushes off, how it lands. Think of ALL the force at play.

No imagine the forces involved in high level sports. Thousands of steps at top performance. Pushing off, planting and cutting, going from scrambling on the floor to a full sprint then a lay up....that's a LOT of load on a joint.

And you can't do ANY of that with Turf Toe. No big toe pushing off equals no running, no jumping, no walking.

Turf Toe Support
Splinting For Turf Toe

Using Turf Toe Support is a common method doctors and physical therapists, etc, prescribe.

It's probably fine to get you through the day.

But injury to the toe is where injury end up, not where it starts.

So splinting for turf toe in no way, shape, or form fixes the problem, nor addresses the CAUSE of turf toe.

Said another way, running and/or jumping doesn't cause turf toe. Muscles not operating optimally is what causes the joint and ligament to take the force since the muscles aren't absorbing it.

If you have nothing better to use, then definitely use splinting for turf toe.

And definitely learn How To Reduce Inflammation.

What To Do About Turf Toe?

"How can I fix my turf toe?" "How do you treat turf toe?"

First, you must understand that Rest never fixed anything but a hangover.

Anti-inflammatory drugs like Ibuprofen and Corticosteroid Injections might get you through the day, but they don't fix anything. Remember, inflammation is a symptom of a problem, it is not the cause of a problem.

Splinting for toe de turf may help, inserts from a good podiatrist could certainly help, getting all functionally lined up by a really good physical therapist could certainly help.

But for most people, by the time they admit to themselves that there's a -real- problem, it's too late for most of all that. Now they're injured and their pain causing dynamic is on high alert.

The PROBLEM is that your muscles are not firing correctly, they'r e not absorbing force and that force has to go -somewhere-. That's where injury happens.

You can ice dip and ice massage and that will very much lower pain levels.

You can self massage the toe and lower leg, that will VERY much help.

If you get my Reversing Achilles Tendonitis ebook, everything in there applies, you'll want to apply all the same self care, though you'll need to apply some of the concepts to your toe, obviously. Easy to do, easy to translate across.

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