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Injury Report: Steve McNair, Tennessee Titans


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NAME: Steve McNair
TEAM: Tennessee Titans
POSITIONS: Quarterback
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 Francisco Giants)

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."

PLAYER BIO

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.

DIAGNOSIS

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.

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