You may have heard about Derrick Rose, the Chicago Bulls All Star guard who misses straight games because of pain in his big toe.  It’s hard to imagine that a simple toe injury could sideline a strapping world-class athlete.  But anyone who has had “turf toe” knows how debilitating it can be.  And it doesn’t just sideline athletes.  Anyone can get it.

Excruciating Pain

Turf toe, as the name suggests, suggests to occur in athletes who play on artificial grass.  The turf grips the bottoms of their flexible athletic shoes.  This is good for traction, but it can also “trap” the foot when players move at high speeds and sharp angles, forcing the big toe to bend sharply upward.

Off the playing field, this type of injury is simply called a sprain.  Anything that forces the toe joint to hyper-extend, or bend too far upward, can stretch or tear ligaments and sometimes damage the joint itself.

Among nonathletes, this usually occurs in the first or second joints of the big toe.  It’s often due to footwear.  shoes that are very soft don’t provide enough support to prevent excessive joint movement.

Age plays a role, too.  After about age 50, the ligaments have stretched, and there is less fat padding the bottom of the feet.

What goes wrong

When you’re walking or running, the big toe is the last part of the foot leave the ground.  On “push-off,” up to eight times your weight is transferred to the first joint of the big toe, and the toe easily can be forced beyond its normal range of motion.

Result: The ligaments stretch and may tear slightly or – if the sprain  is severe – completely rupture.

Faster Healing

You don’t  have to see a doctor right away if you think you have a mild or moderate sprain.  Take care of it yourself (see below)for a week to 10 days.  If it seems to be getting better – there’s a daily decrease in pain and swelling – it will probably heal on its own.

Your doctor usually can diagnosea sprain just by askingabout the history of the injury and seeing where and when it hurts.  Imagine tests such as X-rays or MRI’s are needed only if your doctor thinks the sprain is severe and that there might bebone damage. For faster healing…

Take an anti-inflammatory, such as ibuprofen (Advil) or naproxen sodium (Aleve) following the directions on the label.  It will decrease inflammation, helping to heal the injury.  It will also reduce pain.


Sprains heal slowly because the connective tissue have a limited blood supply.  It can take weeks or even months for the damaged tissues to repair.  Resting the joint is critical – keep your weight off the foot the foot as much as possible.


Article from: Bottom Line/Personal interview Johanna S. Youner, DPM, a Podiatrist, Cosmetic foot surgeon and attending podiatric physician at New York Downtown Hospital in New York City.