UFC Middleweight fighter Uriah Hall suffered a broken toe in the first round of his bout against Thiago Santos on Saturday, and despite the injury, Hall went on to win a decision victory over Santos. Visibly in pain, Hall fought the final 2 rounds limping yet dominating his opponent. He was attended to immediately following the bout, and tweeted a pic of the doctors working on him.
Broken toes are not something to dismiss as “there is nothing you can do about a broken toe”. We hear this statement on a weekly basis from patients, but it couldn’t be more incorrect. Toe fractures are not emergencies, but they do need treatment, at minimum x-rays need to be taken to confirm there is not going to be any long term damage. X-rays taken within the first week of the fracture that show a misaligned joint allow the doctor to set the joint back in place, which will then heal with little to no chance of long term damage. Whereas if the injury is ignored, you face the risk of arthritis, bone spurs, tendonitis, deformities of the toe, and many other painful conditions. Many fractures of the toe are simple fractures where the toe remains aligned, in these cases treatment involving wearing a stiff-soled shoe or splinting the toe is enough. However, about one out of every 5 toe fractures needs more intervention.
We regularly perform surgery on patients who have a severely arthritic great toe (big toe) joint that needs to be repaired or replaced because they broke their great toe years ago and did nothing about it. If any toe is broken and the fracture enters the joint there is potential for arthritic changes later in life.
Toes have 3 joints in the and it just as easy if not easier to dislocate the toe rather than fracture the toe, as happened to another UFC Fighter in April of 2013. Light Heavyweight Champion Jon Jones suffered a dislocated big toe in his win over Chael Sonnen. Dislocations are serious injuries that will cause short and long term problems and should be x-rayed as soon as possible. When confirmed, a dislocation can be reduced and the joint realigned, allowing it to heal with no problems. While Jones’s injury seemed gruesome at the time, with proper treatment he was fighting (and winning) again in only 5 months! So while you may have heard that there is nothing that can be done to fix broken or dislocated toes, that is simply not the case. These Elite-Level athletes depend on their bodies to be in top condition, and understand the importance of proper foot care and treatment.
Treatment or surgery is not needed for all toe injuries, but without an x-ray you can’t know for sure. The next time you injure your toe, make an appointment so we can assess the injury and treat it now, so you can avoid bigger problems and pain in the future.