Blake Griffin’s Injury: Not “Just a Toe”

Blake Griffin suffered an injury to his right big toe in Friday night’s game in Utah.  If you missed it, here’s the play where it became too aggravated (Doc said in his post-game presser that Blake actually injured it on the play prior) to play and he had to leave the game:

Toe injuries are undoubtedly painful but often can be played through in the short-term, depending on the specifics.  Blake’s specific injury, a plantar plate disruption to his hallux, aka a sprained or fully torn ligament in his big toe, is not one of those playable injuries. 

2 key reasons why:

1 – The general role of the plantar plate. 

The plantar plate is a thick ligamentous strucure at the base of each toe that is responsible for stabilizing the joint.  Here’s an illustration:


In other words, any and every time a toe is flexed or extended, the plantar plate has to stabilize the joint and not allow excess motion.

If the plantar plate is compromised, the MTP joint (joint at the base of your toe) loses a key stabilizer resulting in an increased risk for dislocation.

2 – The specific role of the hallux, the big toe

If you had to choose the king of toes, it’s the big toe.  I refer to mine as Louie the XIV.

During normal gait, every time you take a step forward, the big toe of the trailing leg is extended and relied on to provide stability and maintain forward propulsion. Here’s a visual of the trailing foot as the other leg steps forward, aka “terminal stance”: 

Further, during balancing movements the big toe is often relied on as a stabilizer.  Try this:  Stand on one foot, look forward and not at your feet, and pay attention to what your big toe is doing.  It’s very common to dig in with the big toe to help with balance.

Lastly, with dynamic movements such as those involving high speed cutting or changing directions, the big toe is relied on as a stabilizer.

Three of Blake’s main requirements for basketball are: walk & run, have excellent balance, complete dynamic movements.

Blake additionally has a specific risk factor: He’s one of the most dynamic players in the league and relies heavily on his athleticism (some may argue a little too much, but that’s another conversation) to be effective…so if anyone needs a stable big toe, it’s Blake.

With this injury, he’s going to be in pain with just walking, let alone anything more demanding; that level of pain in conjunction with a risk for further injury and possible dislocation means that shutting him down was the right decision.

And that’s why it’s not “just a toe”. Keep enjoying these playoffs.

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