Turf Toe In Field Hockey Players: Causes, Symptoms And Treatments


Playing field hockey can be a great way to stay in shape and have fun at the same time, but while all that physical exercise is good for the body, it can be harsh on your feel. Regular games and training sessions can lead to a variety of foot problems caused by strain and overuse, and a condition known as 'turf toe' is particularly common in both amateur and professional field hockey players.

What Causes Turf Toe?

Turf toe is more properly known as a metatarsophalangeal joint sprain, and occurs when the connective tissue that connects the big toe to the rest of the foot becomes inflamed. When the big toe bends upwards too far or too forcefully, this connective tissue comes under a great deal of stress and is stretched beyond its limits, causing damage to the affected tissue.

Suddenly setting off at a sprint from a standing start can place large amounts of strain on this connective tissue, as can rapid changes in direction while running at full speed. Hyperextension of the big toe can also occur if something (or someone) falls on the back of your leg while you are kneeling, crouching or running. As you can imagine, the fast-paced, rough-and-tumble nature of field hockey makes players vulnerable to developing turf toe.

What Are The Symptoms Of Turf Toe?

If a sudden injury causes turf toe to occur, you may feel an unpleasant 'popping' sensation in the affected big toe when the injury occurs. However, turf toe can also develop slowly over time as a result of repetitive strain. Pain and inflammation in the affected toe are the most obvious symptoms of turf toe, and the toe may become visible reddened and swollen if the inflammation is severe.

If the damage is severe enough to cause internal bleeding, you may notice a bruise on the top of the damaged toe, which can extend up the length of the foot. You may also notice stiffness and reduced range of motion, which can become very debilitating, especially if you attempt to continue playing hockey on the damaged foot.

How Is Turf Toe Treated?

If you are a field hockey player and you are suffering from symptoms of turf toe, you should visit a sports podiatrist as soon as possible to get a diagnosis. Sports podiatrists specialise in diagnosing foot injuries caused by sports and athletics and will use their professional knowledge and sophisticated imaging equipment to determine whether turf toe is causing the symptoms.

Fortunately, most cases of turf toe will heal by themselves over time, as long as the damaged toe is not disturbed during the healing process. You will need to stay off the field for at least a few weeks while the toe heals, and your sports podiatrist may use tape or orthotic shoe inserts to immobilise the damaged toe, preventing accidental movements that can interrupt the healing process.

If pain and inflammation are causing you distress and preventing you from sleeping, your podiatrist can use ice packs and anti-inflammatory medications (such as NSAID painkillers and corticosteroid injections) to alleviate your discomfort. Once the toe has started to heal, they can also help you with a range of physical therapy exercises designed to prevent stiffness and restore your toe's range of motion. To learn more, contact a sports podiatrist.


28 July 2021

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