|Aaron Rodgers Doesn’t Just Have Any Toe Injury. He Has Covid Toe.|
The Packers star quarterback is dealing with a painful toe injury that stems from the body’s immune response to his recent case of Covid-19.
Aaron Rodgers reacts during a loss to the Minnesota Vikings on Nov. 21.Photo: Adam Bettcher/Getty Images
Since Aaron Rodgers returned to the field after testing positive for Covid-19, having sat out 10 days because he was unvaccinated, the star Green Bay Packers quarterback has been dealing with a mysterious and painful toe injury.
After previously describing it in vague terms as a “Covid injury,” Rodgers confirmed what dermatologists had previously suspected.
“No lingering effects, other than the Covid Toe,” Rodgers said Tuesday on the Pat McAfee show.
Covid Toe is a casual name for something medically known as pernio or chilblains, which is a condition that causes symptoms such as discoloration and lesions. It can be extremely painful and turn the toes purple.
The shred of good news, when it comes to Covid Toes, is that they’re a sign of the body’s strong immune response to the virus.
Recent research, including an October study published in the British Journal of Dermatology, has found that Covid Toes typically occur in younger patients who experience mild symptoms. The problem is that, when the body produces too much of a type of interferon, it can create other problems—and produce Covid Toes.
“The way I would think about it is it’s basically a side effect of how your own immune system is fighting the virus,” said Esther Freeman, a doctor and principal investigator for the Covid-19 Dermatology Registry. “It’s part of our body’s response to the response to the virus. It’s almost too much of a good thing.”
Freeman, who’s also an associate professor of dermatology at Harvard Medical School, says the incidence rate of Covid Toes isn’t precisely known. She also noted that the condition tends to occur one to four weeks after infection.
That timeline also neatly aligns with Rodgers’ symptom profile. News of Rodgers’ positive test first emerged on Nov. 3. After that sidelined him for 10 days, during which he missed a game, he returned to play the Packers’ game against the Seattle Seahawks on Nov. 14. The day before that game, Rodgers was added to the team’s injury report with a toe injury.
The injury was so problematic during the team’s game last Sunday, a loss to the Minnesota Vikings, that Rodgers headed to the locker room before halftime to tend to the ailment. His backup, Jordan Love, took the final kneel-down ahead of the break. Rodgers, afterward, described it as “very, very painful.”
Rodgers elaborated on it more Tuesday, saying on the sports talk show that while he was in a great deal of pain, sitting out games isn’t an option. He also indicated that the issue is primarily with his fifth, or pinkie, toe.
“I have an injury that’s not going away,” he said.
The condition can be so painful that some patients report difficulty wearing shoes. But throwing on a pair of cleats isn’t the only impediment between Rodgers and comfortably playing quarterback. It’s also the time of year and the location of his NFL franchise.
One of the most critical factors that can exacerbate Covid Toe is cold weather. Rodgers happens to play for a team in Green Bay, Wis., where temperatures are expected to dip below 20 degrees this week. He already had to play through snow with the toe injury during the game against the Seahawks.
In most cases, Freeman says, the lesions will resolve on their own. While she couldn’t speak to Rodgers or his condition specifically, she generally recommends that patients keep their core and extremities warm to prevent flare-ups. Beyond that, she advises consulting board-certified dermatologists for treatment.
“The best way to avoid Covid Toes is to get vaccinated,” Freeman said.
Rodgers’s decision to not get vaccinated is what placed him at the center of a firestorm in the first place. Before the season, when he was asked if were vaccinated, he responded: “Yeah, I’m immunized.” He also appeared to be vaccinated because of his appearance at news conferences without a mask, as is required for unvaccinated players, according to the NFL’s health and safety protocols.
Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers said sitting out games isn’t an option.
Photo: Elizabeth Flores/Minneapolis Star Tribune/Zuma Press
But when Rodgers tested positive earlier in November, he was forced to sideline for 10 days—the protocols for players who hadn’t been fully vaccinated. That catalyzed a sharp backlash among critics who said he lied or misled the public about receiving one of the safe and effective vaccines approved in the U.S.
Initially, he vigorously defended himself. In Rodgers’s first comments on the subject, he claimed he was immunized because of conversations for “healers” and dubbed himself a “critical thinker” while invoking civil-rights leader Martin Luther King Jr. He said he didn’t lie, assailed the “woke mob” for attacking him and criticized the NFL’s protocols as draconian.
Later, he partially backtracked on that stance.
??“I made some comments that people might have felt were misleading,” Rodgers said Nov. 9, the same day the NFL fined both him and the Packers for protocol violations. “To anybody who felt misled by those comments, I take full responsibility for those comments.”
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