Turf toe is a slang term for a hyperextension injury to the metatarsophalangeal joint of the hallux, or the ball of the foot on the great toe. It is a fairly common injury in football, but it can occur in other sports, such as basketball and soccer.

Mechanism of injury for a turf toe

An athlete commonly suffers the injury when he absorbs an axial load to the back of his ankle when the ankle is plantarflexed (pointing toward the ground) with the toes dorsiflexed or extended (pointing toward the head). An example of this mechanism is a running back or an offensive lineman pushing off when another player falls onto the back of his ankle. The force to the back of the ankle with the great toe extended injures the capsule and ligaments underneath the metatarsophalangeal joint. The severity of the injury can range from a sprain of this soft tissue to a partial or complete rupture of the capsule, ligaments, and other tissue supporting this joint.

Location of pain with turf toe

Treatment options for turf toe

Treatment involves taking pressure off the joint, avoiding offending activities (including sports), and ice. Sports medicine physicians or foot and ankle specialists will usually place the athlete in a walking boot or even a cast. Taping or putting a rigid insert into the athlete’s shoe can help to limit the amount of bending at this joint when he goes back to the sport. For severe cases of turf toe, where the capsule and ligaments on the bottom of this joint have been disrupted, especially in high-level athletes, surgical repair is occasionally attempted.

Also read:
Foot stress fracture: Which stress fractures are the most serious?
Foot pain: Common causes in runners and joggers

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