The Center for Podiatric Care and Sports Medicine

NFL News: Is Atlanta Falcons’ Julio Jones Destined For Toe Surgery?

Posted by on Wednesday, March 1st, 2017

Turf toe, a common injury among NFL players like Julio Jones, doesn’t always require surgery. (Image Source: AAOS.org)
Turf toe, a common injury among NFL players like Julio Jones, doesn’t always require surgery. (Image Source: AAOS.org)

Injuries and high-level competition seem to go hand-in-hand. After their embarrassing stomping at the Super Bowl, fans are looking for any explanation for the historic loss. Not only did Center Alex Mack suffer a fractured fibula, but All-Pro wide receiver Julio Jones also “faces the prospect” of toe surgery after being dogged by a sprain since Week 10. NYC podiatrists discuss what happened to Jones, and what this type of injury could mean for an athlete’s near future.

What Happened To Julio Jones?

Julio Jones suffered the dreaded “turf toe” injury, a sprained ligament in the big toe, during the Falcons’ Week 10 game against Philadelphia in December, and missed the following two games (both wins). He then re-aggravated the injury in Week 14 against the Seahawks, which caused him to scale back his practices.

According to Larry Brown Sports “Jones has actually been playing through several injuries in his foot, and he is said to be in a lot of pain.” One of those injuries is a sprained ankle, which requires no operation. Furthermore, it’s been said Jones “has hardly turned in a full practice all season” — and yet, he still astounded audiences in “typical Julio fashion” during the NFC Championship match against Green Bay with seven catches, 144 yards, and two touchdowns (including a 73-yard sprint) in 32 minutes of play.

UPI Sports News reports that surgery would take up the bulk of his off-season and include months of recovery, but would not likely delay Jones’ 2017 season. Jones is in no rush, seeing as he’s been able to push through the pain to perform. “I’m just relaxing right now, not trying to press it and go and have surgery right away,” he told The Atlanta Journal-Constitution. “I’m just waiting right now to see if it will heal up and see what happens.” The latest word is that Jones will go in for evaluation in mid-March to see if surgery to repair torn ligaments is needed. Once he is given clearance, Jones plans to work with new offensive coordinator Steve Sarkisian.

Are Toe Sprains Serious?

Toe sprains are a very common in field sports like football, soccer, and baseball. As the player is running, the heel rises, the forefoot is planted, and the toe digs into the turf with a forceful twisting or bending motion. The hyperextended toe ligaments may be stretched or torn. In the worst cases, the misalignment is accompanied by broken bones.

NYC foot doctors grade toe injuries into three categories:

  • 1 – Mild – The plantar complex has been stretched, causing tenderness and slight swelling.
  • 2 – Moderate – Partial tearing has caused more widespread tenderness, moderate swelling, bruising, and limited movement.
  • 3 – Severe – A complete tear has caused severe tenderness, swelling, bruising, pain, and limited movement

Foot doctors say RICE (Rest, Ice, Compression, and Elevation) can be effective treatment for most Grade 1 sprains. Anti-inflammatory medication may be used to control swelling. Toe taping and a stiff-soled shoe can limit excessive motion to allow for healing. Custom orthotics may prevent worsening of symptoms. Grade 2 sprains are usually treated with taping and a special walking boot. Anywhere from 3-14 days of rest is recommended. Grade 3 turf toe requires casting or walking boot and physical therapy as soon as the condition allows.

Is Surgery Always Needed For A Toe Sprain?

Surgery is not typical for turf toe, but persistent symptoms indicate something else is afoot. We’ll assess your foot’s condition with x-rays and/or MRIs to see if there is:

  • Severe or complete tearing of the ligaments
  • A fractured sesamoid bone
  • Damage to the MTP joint
  • Loose bony chips in the joint
  • Damage to cartilage
  • Bunion development

Surgery is ordered to reduce pain and stiffness. Athletes may opt for surgery to skip months of not knowing and begin the recovery process sooner. Long-term complications include stiffness, bunion development, lifting up of the big toe, and a lack of push-off strength (which carries obvious implications for an NFL player!) For all these reasons, it is best to see a podiatrist as soon as possible for an accurate diagnosis.

For more information on treatment for a toe sprain in NYC, contact our Manhattan foot doctors and surgeons.

If you have any foot problems or pain, contact The Center for Podiatric Care and Sports MedicineDr. Josef J. GeldwertDr. Katherine Lai, Dr. Ryan Minara and Dr. Mariola Rivera have helped thousands of people get back on their feet. Unfortunately, we cannot give diagnoses or treatment advice online. Please make an appointment to see us if you live in the NY metropolitan area or seek out a podiatrist in your area.