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Turf Toe Injury (Metatarsophalangeal Joint Sprain)​

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What Is Turf Toe?

Turf toe, also called a metatarsophalangeal joint sprain, occurs when the ligament underneath your big toe hyperextends. This causes a sprain in the main joint of your big toe.

Turf Toe Causes and Risks

Doctors call this injury “turf toe” because it appears more often in athletes playing on artificial turf. It happens most often in football players, but it can happen in other sports and activities as well.

Turf toe can occur on any surface.

Sometimes turf toe occurs on a grass surface if the athlete isn't wearing the right shoes or cleats to support the foot.

Turf Toe Prevention

You can take a few steps to prevent turf toe:

  • Wear hard-soled shoes when running or playing sports on hard surfaces.
  • Use athletic tape for added support.
  • Use proper running mechanics.

Turf Toe Symptoms and Diagnosis

Turf Toe Symptoms

Common symptoms of turf toe often include:

  • Pain, especially with activity
  • Swelling
  • Bruising
  • Tenderness to the touch
  • Limited motion in the toe

You may notice that the pain in the metatarsophalangeal joint lessens when you wear hard-soled shoes.

Diagnosing Turf Toe

To diagnose turf toe, your doctor will do an exam to find out the extent of the injury. He or she will look for symptoms and test your range of motion.

Your injury could be a slight stretching, hyperextension, or tear of the tendon.

You may need an x-ray or MRI if your injury looks to be more severe. This will allow your doctor to rule out a fracture, or other more serious injury.

Turf Toe Treatment

Treating Turf Toe

You can treat turf toe at home first with rest, ice, and elevation.

  • Stay off your foot for a while and apply ice packs for 15 to 20 minutes several times a day.
  • Keep your foot raised above your heart while resting to help the swelling go down.

You can take nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs to help with pain.

For more severe toe injuries, you may need to tape the toe or wear a walking cast.

Turf Toe Rehab

Once your symptoms subside, physical therapy exercises can help:

  • Further rehab your turf toe.
  • Strengthen the big toe.
  • Prevent stiffness.