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Sports Medicine Moment: Common Foot Injuries – Turf Toe

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Sports Medicine Moment: Common Foot Injuries – Turf Toe

Written By: Tristen Robinson

Tristen Robinson, M.S., ATC, LAT is a BUZZ Gear Up Blogger and an instructor at Andrew Jackson High School, for the sports medicine magnet program. Checkout the program’s Facebook page at Andrew Jackson High School Sports Medicine.


The body is one big kinetic chain. All body parts connected in unison to achieve the same goal; movement. The foot is the beginning of that chain. In another series we will talk about how an injury or defect to one part of the body (the foot), can affect another part. This month we will discuss common injuries to the foot. The first injury is…turf toe.

It may not come as a surprise to athletes who play on turf or artificial grass that we are discussing this injury. In fact, if you play a sport that is on turf or natural grass, you are very familiar with this injury. The term turf toe however is non-medical. The actual name of the injury is great toe sprain. Similarly, 1st metatarsal sprain is another term used for this injury but we’ll stick with great toe. For a quick review, a sprain is an over-stretch of a ligament. Great toe is another term for your big toe. As a result of the combining the two words, this injury is simply an over-stretch of a ligament in the big toe.

Playing on natural grass is different from playing on turf (artificial grass). It requires a different set of footwear in order to be successful. Cleats that are made for artificial grass are usually lighter and more malleable (bendy). So when an athlete goes to plant or push-off, the cleat bends as far as the athlete can. This feature is great because it allows for an increase in range of motion in the toes. However, that increase in range of motion subsequently, increases the incidence of a sprain. And that’s what leads us to this injury, turf toe; which acquired its name because of the high incidence from athletes playing on turf.

Someone who suffers from turf toe will complain of pain during walking, running, and any other action that would require that great toe to bend back (toes going up). This injury although minor in most cases, can be very painful. It is important to care for this injury properly, to increase chances of successful healing. P.R.I.C.E. is an acronym used to acutely treat most orthopedic injuries. P.R.I.C.E stands for protection, rest, ice, compression, and elevation. Protect with a splint or ace wrap to help prevent more damage; Rest the injured area; Ice the toe for pain and swelling; Compress with an ace bandage to decrease swelling; and Elevate the foot above the heart to decrease swelling and pain. Rehabilitation exercises to decrease re-injury possibility may be needed. As always, seek the advice of an appropriate healthcare professional (ATC, DPT, DO) if you feel the injury is presenting as something more serious.


This has been your sports medicine moment…