What is turf toe? Symptoms, Causes and Treatments

What is turf toe?

Turf toe is not a term you want to use when talking to a head football coach about their star running back or the ballerina before their diva debut. 

Turf toe is the common term used to describe a sprain of the ligaments around the big toe joint.

It affects athletes in order sports including soccer, basketball, wrestling, gymnastics, and dance. 

An injury to the big toe due to forced hyperextension (upward bending back) of the toe. The damage is to the capsule of the joint (the first metatarsophalangeal joint) and the ligaments that connect the big toe to the foot. Hyperflexible shoes predispose to the injury.

The big toe is painful, tender and swollen. Treatment is with icing, rest and anti-inflammatory medication. Taping of the big toe and a stiff insole insert in the shoe may help prevent hyperextension of the toe. 

Turf toe is so named for its occurrence on the artificial playing surfaces used in American football. Turf toe also occurs in other sports played on artificial turf, in grass sports, and the martial arts. Also known medically as a metatarsophalangeal joint sprain.


What are the Symptoms of Turf Toe?

The most common symptoms of turf toe include pain, swellin, and limited joint movement at the base of one big toe.

If it's caused by a sudden forceful motion, the injury can be painful immeidately and worsen within 24 hours.

Sometimes when the injury occurs, a 'pop' can be felt. Usually the entire joint is involved, and toe movement is limited.


What Causes Turf Toe?

The turf toe is a sprain of ligaments around the toe joint that basically acts as a hinge to allow up and down motion.

Typically with turf toe, the injury is sudden. It is most commonly seen in athletes playing on artificial surfaces, which are harder than grass surfaces and to which cleats are more likely to stick.

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Md. Saifur Rahman


B.Sc (Honors), M.Sc (Chemistry)

Former Principal of South Point School and College, Dinajpur.

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