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Injury Report: Steve McNair, Tennessee Titans


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.


The toe is most often treated without surgery. In this case, the toe would be iced and elevated, and the patient would be prescribed an anti-inflammatory medication. The most important treatment is rest. McNair has worn a protective boot during practices throughout the later part of the season. The boot helps to immobilize his foot to keep down pain and swelling. If the athlete develops bone spurs around the joint, like McNair has, surgery is eventually necessary. The bone spurs are removed, and the area is cleaned out. After the surgery, the foot is immobilized in a cast.


Turf toe can be prevented by not playing on artificial turf or, more practically, by wearing stiff-soled shoes. This will limit the bending and jamming of the big toe. With stiffer soles, the toe will not bend back as easily. Cleated shoes tend to have stiffer soles that are usually made of plastic.


The recovery period differs from patient to patient. If an athlete considers it only a nagging pain, he may play through it each week. Otherwise, he may miss a game or two, resting the toe and recovering. When players have surgery, recovery time is obviously increased.


After the initial injury, there is an increased risk of an athlete reinjuring the toe. The toe may also become arthritic, and the athlete may have trouble with arthritis or stiff toes after his career. For the rest of his career, he will play with a special shoe, made to protect his forefoot; the shoe will decrease the odds of reinjuring the toe.

Medical information was provided by Michael J. Ciccotti, MD, director of sports medicine at the Rothman Institute at Thomas Jefferson University Hospital in Philadelphia. Ciccotti is also the team physician for the Philadelphia Phillies.

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