The Center for Podiatric Care and Sports Medicine

Jets’ Wilkerson Won’t Need Surgery for Turf Toe: What to Expect Moving Foward

Posted by on Wednesday, December 10th, 2014


The Jets may have breathed a sigh of relief when they learned Muhammad Wilkerson, starting defensive end, would not need surgery for turf toe. Yet, as NYC podiatrists, this news doesn’t sit well with us because we know what a troublesome injury it can be. We’ll let you know what fans can expect for the NFL player in the best and worst case scenarios, as well as how this type of injury is typically treated by podiatrists and sports medicine doctors.

wilkerson toe injury
As much as he hates it, signing autographs on the sidelines may be all Muhammad Wilkerson will be doing for a little while. Image Source:

What Happened To Muhammad Wilkerson?

Muhammad Wilkerson went down playing the Buffalo Bills at Ford Field in Detroit on November 22nd. It’s said the big toe joint can absorb up to eight times a player’s weight… and for the 6-foot-4, 315-pound Wilkerson, that’s a total force of up to 2,520 pounds! One deep dig and awkward twist into the turf can easily sprain the ligaments surrounding the big toe joint, which is just what happened to Wilkerson’s left foot. He attempted to return, but had to sit after a few plays. “I just couldn’t push off my foot,” he recalled. “Rather than keep playing and making the injury worse, I had to call it.”

Best Case Scenario:

At best, a player with a little bit of swelling and mild pain may be able to return to play within a day or two. The bad news? About half the players will have residual or recurring pain later. A recovery of six to eight weeks is really the standard. So far, Muhammad Wilkerson has missed the 16-13 loss to the Miami Dolphins and Sunday’s loss against the Vikings. Mild cases of turf toe can benefit from ice, elevation, rest, and anti-inflammatory medications. A CAM Walker boot can limit motion enough for the joint to heal. Shots can diminish acute pain to get a player through a game, but we use platelet rich plasma injections to prompt the actual healing. The toe is a difficult area to heal since the extremities get the least amount of blood circulating directly to them.

Worst Case Scenario:

If he ends up needing surgery to repair his turf toe, Wilkerson may be out for six to twelve months or never return to play. Turf toe is a tricky injury that can bring down the biggest of players. Hall of Famer Jonathan Ogden (Ravens offensive tackle, 1996-2007) was injured in the second-to-last game of the 2006 season. He received painkiller shots to keep competing, but ended his NFL career after just 11 games in 2007. Linebacker Jack Lambert — who won the Super Bowl four times with the Pittsburgh Steelers — also ended his career prematurely due to a recurring turf toe injury. Long-term complications with turf toe injuries include arthritis-like pain and limited mobility that can be truly debilitating. Wilkerson would be wise to sit out for the rest of the season and allow it to heal fully, but it’s not looking like he’ll slow down. “It’s not about whoever else. It doesn’t matter what the trainers say, what (Coach) Rex (Ryan) says. It’s about me. I’m the one that’s playing,” he told reporters.

Turf Toe Recovery in Manhattan & Westchester

Our two sports medicine clinics in the NYC metro specialize in the treatment of turf toe, whether through conservative measures like immobilization and injections or surgical intervention and rehabilitation. Our primary goals are to address your acute pain immediately and get you safely back to the field as soon as possible using the latest technology and therapies. Book an appointment to be seen by a specialist online.


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.