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Explaining the pain of a stubbed toe


Howling and hopping around a room, foot in hand, seems like a ridiculous reaction even when you’re the one who stubbed that sensitive little appendage, but it looks like there’s a pretty good reason for all this theater.

As Chris Geiser, director of Marquette College’s College of Health Sciences athletic training program, explained:

Much like hitting our shin, there is no fatty tissue or muscle tissue overlying the bones in the toe to cushion the impact. Every bit of the kinetic energy created in moving our legs forward is absorbed by the skin and bone of the toe, resulting in very high compressive forces on the many nerve endings that reside there. Because the foot is at the end of the longest lever system in the body — the leg — feet tend to be moving much faster than any other part of the body when they come into contact with an unknown object. For these same reasons a pitcher can throw a baseball 90-plus miles per hour and a soccer player can strike the ball at roughly the same speed; the further away from the axis of rotation, in this case our hip, the faster the end of that segment is moving. Add the mass of our entire leg to this equation, and there’s a large mass applying force to the toe at a great velocity in a small area not capable of adequately dissipating that impact.

And that’s only the tip of the ”foot”note, if you will, as to why stubbing a toe might be so painful.

Full story at Marquette Magazine via Boing Boing.

Getting to the bottom of pain.

Photo credit: Fotolia

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  • ConnorMarc

    That makes perfect sense. Kinda like the explanation of Spiderman’s proportional strength.