What Is a Turf Toe Injury?

by | Sep 20, 2016 | Sports Injuries

We haven’t conducted any formal polling on this topic, but we’d be willing to bet that turf toe lands high on the public’s list of “injuries I’ve heard of, but don’t know anything about.” Usually it pops up in the media only when it manages to keep a prominent NFL running back or other athlete off the gridiron for a couple of weeks. But what is it, really, and who can get it?

Let’s start with a sports injury that might be a bit more familiar: the ankle sprain. Most people are familiar with this one, and may have even had it happen to them. The word sprain refers to damage to one or more ligaments in a joint—anything from relatively minor stretching to a significant tear or rupture—caused by hyperextension of a joint (or in other words, a joint being pushed beyond its normal maximum range of motion).

Ankle sprains are so common because of the ankle’s role and location in the body, but any joint can be sprained. When the joint at the base of your big toe gets sprained, that’s turf toe.
The name “turf toe” is a little misleading, though there’s a bit of truth behind it—there’s a reason the injury is so commonly associated with football players. The sport has all the right ingredients for maximizing your risk of hyperextending your big toe—lots of running and cutting motions, forceful hitting, extremely flexible cleats that don’t provide much stiffness in the sole to shield the toes, and “sticky” artificial turf that isn’t as soft and doesn’t provide as much forgiveness as real grass.
But turf toe injuries can also be sustained far from the gridiron. Any kind of sport or activity where you have to powerfully push off with your toes puts you at greater risk, especially if you’re wearing more flexible athletic shoes (or no shoes at all), playing on a hard surface, and there’s some risk of contact or falling. Basketball, tennis, soccer, volleyball, wrestling, and martial arts (among other activities) can also lead to sprained big toes.

Like all sprains, turf toe may be mild to very serious, depending on the amount of ligament damage. But no matter the severity of your case, make it a priority to protect your toe by avoiding further athletic activity and see Dr. Thomas Truong at the Kansas Foot Center as soon as possible. We’ll help you chart the best treatment course so you can heal quickly and get back in the game, at full strength. You can request an appointment online, or give us a call at 866.222.5177.