Several NFL players have been afflicted with ‘turf toe’ recently, most notably Ray Lewis of the Baltimore Ravens and Mark Ingram of the New Orleans Saints. (Funny how so many players are getting hurt on PLAYOFF teams??) I wanted to review with everyone exactly ‘what is turf toe’ and what players and trainers need to do to get back on the field quickly and safely.
First, turf toe, which will typically occur to the big toe joint (first metatarsophalangeal joint), occurs when the foot is plantarflexed (toes bent down) in a fixed position and has force placed upon it. In a nutshell – when defensive players are crouching down at the line of scrimmage, the stance that they take to bounce off of their feet puts them at risk for turf toe. It is a sprain of several of the TEN ligaments that make up the big toe joint. Sometimes there can even be a little fracture of the sesamoid bones associated with it. Depending on which ligaments are sprained and if there is a fracture (MRI and xray can show us that) will factor in on how long a player must be off the field. Most of the time with aggressive physical therapy to strengthen the ligaments and a stiff soled shoe to not allow ‘bending’ of the toe at the big toe joint for 4-6 weeks will do the trick. This is always accompanied by icing several times/day, anti-inflammatories, and even steroid shots if needed.
In many cases, athletes will need functional, custom orthotics in their cleats to help prevent the injury from occurring again. Rushing back from this type of sprain without the additional support of an orthotic can cause arthritis in the big toe joint – possibly leading to surgery. Since the Chicago Bears don’t have to play either the Saints OR the Ravens this December, I am hopeful that both Ray Lewis and Mark Ingram recover nicely from their injuries! :)