Injury Report: Steve McNair, Tennessee Titans
NAME: Steve McNair
TEAM: Tennessee Titans
INJURY: Turf Toe
OTHER ATHLETES AFFECTED
Deion Sanders (Dallas Cowboys), Ricky Williams (New Orleans Saints), Rex
Chapman (Phoenix Suns), Clyde Drexler (Houston Rockets), Jeff Kent (San
HOW IT HAPPENED
McNair has been bothered by turf toe off and on for the last two seasons.
After subsiding earlier this year, the pain returned again last month. Last
week, he wore a plastic boot on his foot during practices and actually led the
Titans in rushing yards in their AFC Championship victory over the Jacksonville
Jaguars. He also scored two rushing touchdowns. He has described the pain of
turf toe as being "like a bad toothache."
McNair has blossomed into one of the most effective and consistent
quarterbacks in the league. He has thrown or run for a touchdown in 39 of the
49 games he has started and has led the NFL in quarterback rushing yardage
twice in his five-year career (674 in '98 and 559 in '98). During his college
career at Alcorn State, he was nicknamed "Air McNair"; he became the
only player in NCAA history to gain over 16,000 yards in total offense. He was
named Sports Illustrated Offensive Player of the Year as a sophomore and won
the Walter Payton Award for top Division I-AA player and the Eddie Robinson
Trophy for top black college player. He finished third in Heisman Trophy voting
and was drafted third overall in the 1995 NFL draft. McNair started in only 11
of 16 games this season due to midseason back surgery.
WHAT IS TURF TOE?
Turf toe is the irritation of the joint at the base of the big toe, called
the metatarsal-phalangeal joint. In McNair's case, bone spurs have worn and
aggravated the nerves around the joint. The injury occurs when the big toe is
forcefully jammed into the ground or bent backward. The result is pain and
swelling at the base of the toe, where it meets the foot. It can hamper an
athlete because it creates pain in the foot every time he plants or pushes off
-- when he runs or moves laterally, for example. It can occur on any surface,
but it occurs more often when an athlete plays on artificial turf, due to the
hard nature of the surface and the superior grip an athlete can get between his
shoe and the plastic turf. Also, players wear softer-soled shoes, such as
tennis shoes, when playing on artificial turf; these shoes provide far less
support and protection to the foot and especially to the forefoot.
The injury can be diagnosed by an X-ray, by flexibility tests, and by
questioning the patient. The X-rays can show bone spurs, or irregularities in
the joint. Examining the joint will also show inflammation and stiffness.