(Metatarsalphalangeal Joint Sprain; Sprain Big Toe)
by Laurie LaRusso, MS, ELS
Turf toe is a sprain of the base of the big toe where the big toe meets the foot. It is usually a hyperextension sprain of the first joint of the toe. A sprain is stretching or tearing of the ligaments that support a toe. Ligaments are strong bands of tissue that connect bones to each other. The injury is called turf toe because it often occurs in football and soccer players when playing on artificial turf.
Turf toe occurs when the big toe is forced to extend beyond its normal range of motion. This can be caused by:
Risk Factors TOP
Factors that increase your chances of getting turf toe include:
You will be asked about your symptoms and how you injured your toe. An exam of your toe will be done to assess the stability of the joint and the severity of the injury.
Your doctor may need pictures of your foot. This can be done with:
The toe will need time to heal. Supportive care may include:
Over-the-counter medication may be advised to reduce inflammation and pain.
Surgery is only needed to repair turf toe if:
Often, turf toe cannot be prevented. However, to reduce your risk of getting turf toe, wear stiff-soled athletic shoes when playing sports.
Proper treatment of turf toe can help prevent long-term complications or problems with the toe joint such as misalignment and immobility.
American Academy of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation
OrthoInfo—American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons
British Columbia Podiatric Medical Association
Achilles Foot Health Centre
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Foot sprain. EBSCO DynaMed website. Available at:
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Updated January 30, 2015. Accessed March 2, 2015.
Mullen JE, O'Malley MJ. Sprains—residual instability of subtalar, Lisfranc joints, and turf toe. Clinics in Sports Medicine. 2004;23(1):97-121.
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Last reviewed February 2014 by Michael Woods, MD
Last Updated: 2/19/2014