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What to Know About Turf Toe

Now that fall sports are in full swing, I thought it would be appropriate to talk about a common soccer and football injury – Turf Toe.

Turf toe is a soft tissue sprain of the big toe joint, caused by hyperextension. This can be both an acute and chronic injury. The big toe joint, also known as the first metatarsal phalangeal joint or the 1st MPJ,  is used to push off and to pivot. The athlete will feel their foot or toe is stuck to the ground while their body is trying to move forward. Artificial turf leads to more of this type of injury when compared to grass because the foot “sticks” more to the turf, hence the name “Turf Toe.”

Symptoms include pain in the ball of the foot by the big toe joint, pain when pushing off while walking and swelling.

Soft tissue (ligaments, tendons), bone or both may be injured. The amount of damage to these structures determines the severity of the injury.  X rays are typically ordered to rule out fracture or dislocation.  In some cases advanced imaging such as CT or MRI is required.

Recovery can take a few days to several weeks depending on the severity of the injury.  

Treatment includes a combination of RICE (Rest, Ice, Compression and Elevation), OTC or prescription anti-inflammatories and immobilization with taping or a walking boot.   Physical therapy and orthotics also play an important role.

As with any sport, flexibility, strength and fitness are important keys to preventing injury.

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