Unfortunately for Jacksonville football fans, the Jaguars did not make the postseason this year, however everyone should still be excited to watch the upcoming super bowl. Throughout the long 17 week NFL regular season, and the 4 weeks of playoffs thereafter, the player’s bodies are exposed to non-stop, repetitive, strenuous activity that can put strain on muscles, tendons, ligaments and bones, the foot being no exception. One of the most common chronic injuries to the feet of NFL players and older athletes are big toe joint injuries. Some can be career altering such as the case with Deion Sanders when he was forced to retire from a “turf toe”injury in 2000.
Turf toe results from hyperextension of the big toe joint as the heel is raised off the ground. An external force is place on the big toe and soft tissues that support the big toe on top are torn or ruptured. In sports, especially football,a player whose foot is planted on the ground with the heel in the air is subjected to a force on the back of the foot thereby hyperextending the first MTP joint. The injury usually happens when a football player’s cleat is engaged with the turf and another player lands on the back of the heel.
There are also other conditions of the big toe joint that result out of abnormal wear and tear. Hallux limitus is a condition in which there is a significantly decreased amount of motion in the joint of the great toe, whereas in hallux rigidus there is no motion available at the great toe. The diagnosis of Hallux Limitus can be made based on physical exam and x-rays that can be done here at the First Coast Foot and Ankle Clinic.
Hallux limitus can usually be treated conservatively in the office. The first line of treatment would be functional foot orthotics that are to be worn in shoes. These orthotics can provide a stiff surface for the inside of the foot and limit the pain associated with the decreased motion at the great toe joint. The shoes can also be stretched so that no pressure or rubbing occurs around the joint. In some more severe cases, surgery may be the best option to completely alleviate pain, and realign the joint.
It does not take the amount of activity or training that an NFL player has to endure to develop big toe joint problems, and is also quite common in the normal population. If you are experience pain in that area, or want to prevent future problems, make an appointment today.