We’re taking a break from our usual format to talk about “Turf Toe”, an injury suffered by one of our favorite football players, Bart Scott of the NY Jets, as well as many of his peers in the NFL and NBA. Scott had played in 119 consecutive games since 2004, yet was off the field recently due to an injury to his big toe. And Scott is in good company. Chargers LaDainian Tomlinson, Darren McFadden of the Oakland Raiders, 49ers Terrell Owens and Pierre Garcon of the Washington Redskins have all suffered the same fate. NBA MVP Derrick Rose of the Bulls was similarly afflicted. Soccer players also experience a high rate of these injuries, which in this arena is often referred to as “soccer toe“.
The term “turf toe” is used for most type of injuries to the big toe, particularly as it relates to athletes. This injury generally occurs in the joint where the toe meets the ball of the foot (the metatarsophalangeal joint) and is the result of an impact that jams the toe bones together. We all know how painful it can be to stub a toe. But this type of assault is worse because it’s high impact, meaning it happens at high speed, like when someone is jumping or running at full force.
Similar to all these areas we’ve been blogging about, (the thumb, wrist, lower back, neck and shoulders) the big toe joint has its own way of being problematic and its own unique way of being resolved. In the case of the toe joint, when it gets jammed it gets stuck. You have these two bones forced very close to each other and they quickly start to swell and calcify, which is the body’s natural response to high impact injury. In my mind, the best thing to do is get the joint moving to avoid calcification and move out that swelling. And what shocked me is that a quick search on the internet revealed that everybody in the business of turf toe treatment advocates immobilizing the joint and taking 2 or 3 weeks off to rest the injury. And that’s completely the wrong approach for resolving a turf toe issue.
I’ve worked with high profile athletes in the NFL and NBA who suffered from turf toe and I was able to quickly mobilize the joint to reduce the compression and relieve the discomfort. And it only makes sense, if a joint can’t move, then it tends to hurt. If you get it to move, then it feels better.
In my experience, turf toe responds very quickly to mobilization treatment. So much so that the joint will work and feel about 80% better with one treatment and rarely take more than two or three for full resolution. Particularly for a high-end athlete. And for me, that’s what’s so unbelievable about the conventional approach.
With most issues, like that of a knee, shoulder or hip, there’s a complexity in resolving it and a complexity in how it got created. With turf toe there’s no mystery. The toe got jammed and it needs to get unjammed. Very few things are as black and white. Every turf toe has an immobile joint, and every turf toe gets mobilized in the same way. And it’s very accessible. You can’t miss it. If you talk about the neck or the shoulder, for example, there are a lot of minute areas that make a big difference. If you move half an inch in one direction on a shoulder you’re in a whole other part of the anatomy. With a toe joint, however, it’s like a thumb joint, but only easier.
I like to resolve turf toes quickly because if your toe hurts, you’re naturally going walk differently to avoid the pain. And this is bound to create other problems. A case in point is Delano Howell, currently with the Buffalo Bills, who I worked with last year as he prepared for the NFL draft. He came into the office walking on the outside edges of both feet so as not to put his weight on the big toes. He had been dealing with the turf toe for quite some time and had developed groin issues because of the compensation. All this, despite being a defensive back with Stanford at the time and receiving what is commonly believed to be the best possible treatment.
We fixed Howell up right away and now we’re ready for Scott. So, if you see Bart, let him know we’re here for him and that we can fix that toe in no time. Of course we’re here for you as well. Make an appointment with Dorfman Kinesiology and your toes will feel better forever.