Turf toe gets no respect. Let's take a closer look at the causes of turf toe and see how you can treat it more effectively.
- Turf toe is actually a form of hallux limitus.
- Hallux limitus is typically described as pain and progressive decrease in the range of motion of the first metatarsal phalangeal joint (MPJ).
- The start of hallux limitus is due to the following:
Functional hallux limitus - biomechanical function that results in metatarsus primus elevatus as well as subsequent repetitive jamming of the first MPJ.
- Direct physical injury - injury to the articular cartilage or subchondral bone.
- These injuries may be due impaction injuries or hyperextension/flexion of the first MPJ.
Other conditions - synovitis, crystal deposition diseases such as gout, systemic osteoarthritis, external physical has a bearing on such as Dupytren's contracture, etc.
But before we go any further, we need to understand that the terms turf toe and hallux limitus aren't really synonymous. The fundamental difference between the two terms is the patient population that they affect. Turf toe is a term used in athletic bags talking about any injury of the great toe joint. Consequently, discussions concerning turf toe may focus on the first couple of reasons for hallux limitus mentioned above; functional hallux limitus and direct physical injury. On the other hand, when we discuss hallux limitus, we're actually referring to a broader, non-athletic' patient population as well as need to include all three causes of hallux limitus.
Think of turf toe (hallux limitus) as an isolated case of osteoarthritis limited to the first MPJ. Whether the injury is acute or due to repetitive loading, the result is actually lots that is put on the subchondral bone that is greater than what the bone fragments can tolerate. As the injury progresses, a series of micro fractures will develop in the subchondral bone. The typical soft spongy character of the metaphyseal bone changes to become brittle and hard. The result is that the articular cartilage looses its' underlying support and becomes susceptible to injury. Juxtachondral eburnation, osteophytes, lipping, spurring; call them what you like, but what you see on your x-ray is the slow progressive destruction of the shared.
What's the actual physical change that takes place in the joint with turf toe? As an easy analogy, consider the changes that takes place when an apple falls from a height and is damaged. The skin of the apple appears intact but the underlying pulp is damaged. In the case of turf toe (hallux limitus), think of the skin of the apple because the cartilage of the joint and the broken pulp of the apple is the subchondral bone. Slight cases of turf toe (hallux limitus), result in little damage to the subchondral bone and can merely exhibit signs of inflammatory change within the combined.
Most Authors Would Refer to These Cases as Stage One Turf Toe (Hallux Limitus)
More severe cases result in damage to the joint surface, the subchondral bone or both. These are the stage two and three cases of turf toe (hallux limitus) that show visible change on x-ray. As the subchondral bone will become increasingly damaged, it will create a great uneven supporting surface for the cartilage. An increase in activity results in uneven loading of the joint because of the compression injury of the subchondral bone.
The start of turf toe constantly the same? Turf toe that is the result of functional hallux limitus will be insidious in onset. Functional hallux limitus will usually be seen in younger athletes as they attempt to increase their activity. It may not occur during the very first athletic season, or the second, but when it does start to cause pain, the onset will be more frequent and more severe, different with activity. This profile of onset is simply due to the fact that the athlete is recreating the injury with every step.
Turf Toe Caused by a Direct Injury to the Joint May or May Not be Obvious
Athletes may well not remember an incident of pain since they're frequently distracted by the event or game in which they're involved. The onset of primary injury to the joint may be unexpected, but also may end up being insidious becoming increasingly more painful as the season progresses. The joint pain will subside with rest only to recur together with increased activity. It's not unusual to see the signs of turf toe resolve in the off season only to recur with renewed exercise.
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Treatment of turf toe varies together with the kind of healthcare provider and includes the use of rest, shoe modifications, orthotics, steroid shots and surgery. The success of non-surgical attention will vary with the degree of injury, the rate at which the injury is healing and also how much osteoarthritis has occurred. We see varying degrees of success with orthotics that promote plantarflexion of the initial ray, effectively treating metatarsus primus elevatus and peroneus longus dysfunction.
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Simple Arch Supports can Make a Significant Difference in the Symptoms of Turf Toe
Should our patient not really answer conservative care in a reasonable time period, we are not reluctant in order to suggest surgical revision to address the problem whether revisions of the shared problem, shortening of a long first metatarsal or structural revision of metatarsus primus elevatus. As mentioned before, the clinical appearance of dorsal lipping or visible radiographic changes are suggestive of moderately advanced osteoarthritis, a condition that is only repaired by joint revision or replacement.
When treating turf toe be sure to recognize the fact that there is no neural innervation in articular cartilage. Pain associated with stage one turf toe (hallux limitus) is actually either synovial pain or bone pain. If we all recognize that painful stage one turf toe hallux limitus) may be due to bone pain, we then realize that turf toe should be treated aggressively in order to insure the long term viability of the joint.
First MPJ - the big toe joint Metatarsus primus elevatus - a useful or structural position of the very first metatarsal First metatarsal - the foot bone making up the proximal portion of the important toe joint Hallux - the great toe.
The great toe joint, or first metatarsal joint consists of two bones. The proximal bone is the very first metatarsal and the distal is named the proximal phalanx or hallux. These two bone move against each other in a up and down motion through what we refer to as the sagital plane. Biomechanics: The motion of the great toe joint is dependant after the plantarflexion of the first metatasal. If the first metatarsal is limitied in its' power to plantarflex, the joint will jam causing funtional hallux limitus, which as we know is one of the causes of turf toe.
Turf toe that is the result of functional hallux limitus is going to be insidious in onset. Functional hallux limitus will usually be seen in more youthful sports athletes as they make an effort to improve their activity. It may not happen during the first athletic season, or the second, but when it does start to cause pain, the onset will be more frequent and more severe, varying with activity. This profile of onset is simply due to the fact that the athlete is recreating the injury with each and every step.
Turf Toe Caused by a Direct Injury to the Joint May or May Not be Obvious
Athletes may not remember an incident of pain since they are often distracted by the event or game in which they're involved. The onset of primary injury to the joint may be abrupt, but also may end up being insidious becoming increasingly more painful as the season progresses. The joint pain will subside with rest only to recur with increased activity. It's not unusual to see symptoms of turf toe resolve in the off season only to recur with renewed exercise.
The differential diagnosis of turf foot includes; ArthitisFracture Gout Joint an infection Combined or bone fragments tumor Synovitis.
Lombardi, C.M., Silhanek, A.D., Connolly, F.G., Dennis, L.N.,Keslonsky, A.J. First Metatarsophalangeal Arthrodesis forTreatment of Hallux Rigidus: A Retrospective Study. J. FootSurg. 40:3, 137-143, 2001
Unger, K., Rahimi, F., Bareither, D., Muehleman, C. TheRelationship Between Articular Normal cartilage Degeneration and BoneChanges of the initial Metatarsophalangeal Joint. J. Foot Surg.
Ronconi, P., Monachino, P., Baleanu, P.M.,Favilli, G. DistalOblique Osteotomy of the first Metatarsal for the Correction ofHallux Limitus and also Rigidus Deformity. J. Foot Surg. 39:3,
About the Author:Jeffrey a
Oster, DPM, C.Ped is a board certified foot and ankle physician. Dr. Oster is also board certified in pedorthics. Dr. Oster is medical director of Myfootshop.com and it is in active practice in Granville, Ohio.